Kenny Dorham: Una Mas (1963) Blue Note – Updated

Photo Update April 24 – Anthony “Tony” Williams, 1971, courtesy of the Jazz Paparazzi, Harry M.

More overlooked gems from the shelf, often overlooked for a reason: a flaw in collector standing, failing the snooty First Edition test, a slightly later label, the wrong, spoiled or missing cover. Flawed, but a musical gem within, and still vintage, so cut it some slack.

Selection: Sao Paulo (Dorham) Plastylite mono 1963

.  .  .


Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Herbie Hancock, piano; Butch Warren, bass; Anthony Williams, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 1, 1963, released January 1964.

The line up is once again bop-veteran Kenny with new kids Joe and Herbie, and introducing 17 year-old fresh out of diapers, Anthony Williams behind the drums .

Dorham’s last but one session for Blue Note, preceding the final  Trompetta Toccata. His long history with Blue Note and his thriving partnership with Joe Henderson didn’t survive the transition to Liberty. Just a handful of further recordings, a couple of sessions from the later ’60s found their way to Strata East shortly after his departure – he suffered ill-health and died at the end of 1972, aged just 48.


Part of the Dorham-Henderson partership of 1963-4, their recording schedule: Una Mas (April1, 1963); Page One (June 3, 1963); Our Thing (Sept 9, 1963); In ‘n Out (April 10,1964). Una Mas was the first of the bunch, you can argue about which is best of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a place on your turntable.

Soapbox alert! If you only ever played your very best record, you would pretty soon suffer “palate-fatigue“. That’s what I get when I find a wine that I like very much, buy a whole case, only to find that by the third or fourth botttle I get pretty fed up with it, wonder what I saw in it, get the urge to explore something different, find something I like even better, and buy a whole case of…rinse and repeat. Excellence needs balance with Exploration and Discovery, which has its own own reward. Variety is one of life’s essentials (in this I excludes wives, not a good idea)

Whistle-stop through the Una Mas tracks, it won’t take long, only three:

The title track Una Mas occupies all of Side 1, it offers a fifteen minute helping of Afro-Brazilian-Cuban-Latin-Swing-Bossa-Boogaloo, in which Anthony Williams inflicts extreme punishment on an innocent cowbell. Recorded six months before Lee Morgan and Barry Harris took to the studio with the slightly sassier and more  snappy The Sidewinder. It’s same the attittude: can the go-go dancers keep it up for 15 minutes? Or will their beehive bee-come flat?

Over on Side 2 Straight Ahead is what it says on the label, straight ahead, mainstream staple fare, doesn’t add a lot.

The third tune is my pick of the album, Sao Paulo, a jaunty mid-tempo stepper with an attractive opening melody, firmly in the latin/ swing oeuvre, The tune has an airy sense of anticipation, fluttering to ground, and a gentle latin swing, great solos courtesy of Henderson Dorham and partners. I had the good fortune to fly over Sao Paulo a few years back, on a trip between Rio and Santiago, Chile. I recall looking down from my window seat in the sky as Sao Paulo scrolled below, on, and on, and on, urban area population 22m against London’s 9m, it is huge and it inspired Dorham.

Some critics suggest the session reflects a degree of hesitancy among the youngsters, as to how far they can or should go to assert themselves. I don’t hear it myself, but even players of this calibre, you must wonder if they did sometimes find the setting daunting. However I recall being in a band myself at that age, and all you wanted to do was blow the other guys off the stage. No Oprah there.

Vinyl:  BLP 4127 NY labels, Plastylite, VAN GELDER, mono

Collector’s Corner

Another Photoshopped fake back cover. I was reluctant to post about Una Mas originally because of the cover. The grime is real, as are the sellotaped edges, but in an Ebay auction for the mono original, the postman delivered a bad condition Liberty stereo reissue cover, which the seller claimed was an honest mistake. Yeah, one of those words is right. I wouldn’t have minded a battered original mono cover to go with the mono original vinyl, but to have a battered Liberty stereo reissue cover adds insult to injury. A price adjustment was conceded. On reflection I should have demanded more. Record without sleeve, may be priced a third of one with? But it had a cover, just not the right one.

Photoshop to the rescue, superimpose the correct mono catalogue number and “High Fidelity” left top corner, et voila, everything as it should be, in this imaginary “let’s pretend” space. Let’s see how collectors value Una Mas. Near Mint! Ouch!

Mine, not so much, but less than one tenth the top copy price.

This is the cover the above lucky winners above enjoy. Beautiful? I think so. If they get $800 of pleasure from it, good on them.

To add some spice, and who doesn’t like spice, I decided to add a different kind of shoot out: I have two copies of Una Mas, both pressed from Van Gelder masters, one by Plastylite (mono), the other, by United Artists ten years later (stereo). Decide for yourself if the five to tenfold difference in price is worth it.

And at a one twentieth of the price of that glossy beauty, my first copy of Una Mas, from the mid ’70s, United Artists Blue label. United Artists Music and Records Group, would make it some time around 1976.

I imagine the UA egineers in LA.,  at morning coffee break.

“Hey, great party last night, Joe!  What’s on your job list today. 
Some old trumpeter dude, Kenny Doorman or something. New York has sent us a copy tape. LA want a fresh master cut and sent to the plant for pressing of a reissue. Probably take the rest of the day.
Hey I got an idea! Remember those old stampers we found, in a box back of the storeroom, old Van Gelder ones. See if there’s one for that Doorman album. Save a whole lot of trouble fiddling with tapes, you could just dust it off and slip it in for the pressing instead. They’ll never know!
Great idea, we can take the rest of the day off! Take in a movie?
Everyone says “Jaws” looks pretty cool.
That poster! Reminds me of Stella in Accounts!

Vinyl: 84127 United Artists Music And Records Group, circa 1976. blue label, Van Gelder stereo master stamps, 136 grams.


No, of course , Van Gelder metal was treasured…wasn’t it?

Selection: Sao Paulo, Van Gelder stereo master, UA press (1976)

.  .  .

Reference: Sao Paulo (Dorham) Plastylite mono 1963

.  .   .

I’m shocked they still had Rudy’s stampers to hand in the mid’ 70s, but it is always a pleasant suprise to find them on a small price reissue, undervalued. I used to think of the UA blue label as a lesser thing compared to originals, which I guess they are, but the price of the most collectable originals has gone stratospheric, and these now look a very acceptable alternative.

Postscript: Follow up question on Tone Poets, bumped to this post:

I see TP have announced their planned 2020 release programme. Some tasty items there, but I have  a question mark regarding the forthcoming TP edition of Lee Morgan’s The Cooker (1578) due out around 24th April.

Before rushing to order, I recalled having a Japanese King edition of The Cooker, so I gave it a spin to decide if I wanted to double up with a TP. Oh dear, 81578, recorded in September 1957, a Van Gelder tape that should never have been allowed out in Stereo. Rising from my sofa, I had to check whether my left speaker leads had fallen out. Rhythm section centre, Pepper Adams and Lee Morgan solos both hard panned to right speaker. Horrible mix. I wonder how Kevin has handled it? I guess we will find out soon. Personally I would have gone mono as Rudy intended. Am I the only one to think this?

Plus musically, way too much Pepper for me. I used to be a fan but his limited repertoire of stock phrases repeated over and over, predictable rests, formulaic, not really an ensemble player here. I don’t feel I need another Pepper album,

However I am delighted there are more TP titles planned. I see Money Jungle is on the horizon, that is fascinating and brave, and an admirable level of ambition, and Byrd in Flight! I think they may have  struck gold with the TP concept. Instead of chasing yoof with no money and hip-hop fusion, there’s is a thirst for real quality issues, of great music, poorly served first time around or simply unavailable on vinyl at this audio quality (excepting the wow and flutter) and price-point. Now could be a good time to be staying home.


UPDATE! Harry M has dipped into his archive and brings us Anthony Williams, Montreux 1971

Tony Williams Montreux 1971 (90a)[8511] x1920px LJC

Anthony “Tony” Williams  Lifetime, appearing at Montreux 1971

Photo Credit: Harry M

5 thoughts on “Kenny Dorham: Una Mas (1963) Blue Note – Updated

  1. I’ll stick with my New York label ,ear RVG stamp with high gloss mono cover , sounds fine to me.
    The inner sleeve has Una Mas promoted on it . Also for those that really dig the music on the album another track was issued on the CD version called ” If ever I would leave you” Worth checking out.

  2. Great idea with the UA/mono shootout! I don’t know if it is allowed to say this here, but the UA pressing sounds better to my ears than the Plastylite mono… tonality is better on it and it just sound more balanced too.

    • I have no dog in this fight because I own them both, the only thing that matters is which sounds better. The Van Gelder stereo master captures a warmth and depth in the music which is missing in the mono. No idea if this is a Plastylite vs UA issue, or a Van Gelder mono vs stereo master issue. These two sound different, yet they are directly from tapes of the same recording session. I have no explanation, just what I hear. Even the discovery that they sound different is cause for enquiry.

      • I sold my original mono Plastylite copy because to my ears the stereo Van Gelder Liberty pressing I have sounds better.

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