Kenny Dorham: Trompeta Toccata (1964) Blue Note (updated with photos)

More photos from 1970, courtesy of Harry M, The Jazz Paparazzi (see end of post, and test your artist recognition skills)

Selection: Mamacita (Henderson)

.  .  .

A Tocatta – “a virtuoso piece of music featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections” (Wiki)


Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Albert Heath, drums, recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 14, 1964, released July 1965.


Trompeta Tocatta,  despite some flaws in its execution, is one mother of an album. Dorham shows his bop roots, brings in the well-seasoned Tommy Flanagan, but gives lots of space to his young contempory, the increasingly confident Joe Henderson.

The title track Trompeta Tocatta  is an ambitious modal canvas, a slow rising intro, a gateway to a  complex weave of sections, some wonderful horn-work from Henderson – explosive fast runs, honking snarls and harmonics – but I think a mis-judged Richard Davis bass solo that peters out, leaving everyone scrambling to pick up the pieces. Bass and drum solos are, in my view, best reserved for live performance, allowing  some of the audience to nod and absorb the solo, others to escape to the bar and order a drink. With a few exceptions, they rarely work on vinyl, where ensemble performance  and group improvisation time is at a premium.

Albert Heath drums keep driving hard, symbols ringing. Tommy Flanagan feels a little out of place in what would have been a natural space for Hancock’s spiders-web of notes. An uneven piece given its high ambition, which might have benefitted from another take, but still has a lot to offer

Night Watch is the hidden gem. Waistband tight, everybody performs on point, feisty solos, economical in delivery, densely packed with fine playing, repays repeated listening, though the tune itself lacks a hook that might have got it greater airplay.

The Fox is a fast-paced virtuoso trumpet performance from Dorham, with Henderson in pursuit.  Tally Ho! An exhausting chase.

Mamacita (the selection) is a signature Henderson piece, that delivers on eveything. Billed as a “gospel bossa”,  it is a standard 12-bar blues format with a latin bossa overlay. Henderson stretches out and really swings. Dorham tip-toes through his solo lines, syncopating with the rhythm section, Flanagan goes all Barry Harris, while Richard Davis goes Leroy Walkin’, double time. It is a joyous piece that more than makes up for some patchy aspects of the session.


I’ve been thinking about the content of the “Music” section of this blog. Many blogs just copy/paste the All-Music review,  list the tracks, or stray into the music career of the artist, rather than poke into the music itself. Whilst those things have a place, I want original content to highlight what I think is distinctive about this music, why it is good, and why you should listen to it.

More personal, I make myself choose the track that I think is the pick of the album. Not always easy. More difficult still is critical balance. I have found over the years, almost everyone is comfortable with praise. Criticism is a harder path to tread, people draw swords, need to defend their opinions. I think, OK, let’s have a conversation about that. I know what I think, but you can always try to change my mind, I’ve been wrong before, perhaps you have too. We can all learn.

Vinyl: BST 84181

This copy is a Liberty reissue, likely an All-Disc pressing:  legacy NY labels, Van Gelder stereo master stamps, no ear or no deep groove, 135 gram vinyl, not untypical of Liberty, may be on the lighter side.  Original stereo cover, but lost/mislaid inner sleeve.

Collector’s Corner

At least this time the cover is a genuine original, even if the vinyl is “only” Liberty. For the original, Top Twenty auctions stretch between $200 to over $600, with the familiar emphasis on original mono 1st edition. I count only one stereo made it to the Top Twenty auctions.

Do we really need another Blue Note Guide? You decide.

We have two very worthy books on the identification of Blue Note records and pressings –  Fred Cohen, and Cuscuna & Ruppli. Both leaning heavily on tabular  presentation, though Fred has some great photographic examples as well to accompany the tables.

What I would really like doesn’t exist, a fully visual graphic Illustrated Reference Guide to Blue Note,  so I thought I would “imagine” what a page of such a book might look like. I made one up using Trompeta Tocatta as a test, identifying every mark viewable in full screen using actual photograhic source material, combined with useful historical and commercial references, in one infographic.

It is  also an excuse to demonstrate my system for improving your odds in smoking out the likely provenance of sealed records – original, or later issue? My mailbox sees queries like this regularly. Either end of the ’60s, vinyl weight fell from 180 grams to around 130 grams. If you have a record from around a similar period to the sealed one, you have a proxy for these readings, but better to have a benchmark of an original copy. Not perfect, vinyl weights vary some from one copy to another, but this should improve your confidence in bidding.

I have seen so many “sealed” teases. Just ask the seller the weight of the sealed record, in grams. Suspicious look “Why do you want to know that??

Everything in the graphic below is genuine, including the weights and values, not a spoof or a mock-up. I laughed at the best price achieved for a sealed copy of Trompeta Tocatta: 30% less than an unsealed  VG++ copy. Who says mystery sells?

My Goldmine is way out of date, there needs to be a better way to benchmark auction prices. Popsike’s stats graphic of Ebay auction results give too much weight to low-value reissues and CDs under $4.99, not the collectable VG+ or  better original and vintage reisues.  I opt usually for the Top Twenty range, to get away from the maximum pre-occupation. Technically, the 75th percentile,  intersection between the top quartile  and upper quartile would probably be the best benchmark, but no-one seems able to do it. So for the moment I flag the  top-most moment of madness “outlier” bid.

The time it took to assemble one page, the whole catalogue would be impossible, if you had the original editions in the first place, especially the trophy records.  But I might just try some more examples when it might be relevant to a post. I’ve had some fun with it. Looks like spare time may be still quite plentiful in the days and weeks ahead, and oh dear, a week of rain forecast

If you can think of anything to improve this imaginary Collectors Guide, fire away, whatever floats your boat. You might want to give it a try yourself, with a different record, crowd-sourcing.


Update April 27, 2020. More photos from Harry M, the Jazz Paparazzi.

Albert Heath, Montreux 1970

Tommy Flanagan, and friends, at the Montreux Pablo reception

Tommy Flanagan and friends, Montreux, 1970

Here’s a little fun, name as many of the seven friends as you can. No facial recognition software allowed, no cheating.

Photo Credits – Harry M


21 thoughts on “Kenny Dorham: Trompeta Toccata (1964) Blue Note (updated with photos)

  1. Really like the LJC Illustrated example. I especially like seeing the US reissue label pictures in the lower right. Maybe you could add in whether each reissue features VAN GELDER metalwork, as that is something I look for primarily in a reissue. I am also supportive of the deep dive into the Liberty era recently as that is where the bulk of my Blue Note collecting focus lies due to price and availability.

  2. There’s my beloved Zoot Sims, 3rd from right with the most valuable lips.
    Then the one hidden, left with the significant ear is tommy flanagan, I guess.
    I am not sure, maybe it’s roy elridge in the middle (he resembles Roy on my Oscar Peterson album). 2 missing…grmpf…

    Very nice report & pic by the way!

  3. I also very much like the proposed layout of a true collector’s guide. Cohen’s guide is very nice but there are still many subtleties left out—such as vinyl weight variances and especially most of the 1960s. Your idea makes much sense but also seems a daunting task. But I’ll help if I can.

  4. Full disclosure: I’m a huge KD fan. Terrific, intelligent trumpeter who also wrote reviews (some quite sharp) in the jazz press. For me, he was second only to Dizzy as a trumpet exponent of latin tunes. Several points I’d like to follow up…

    We’re going to have to agree to differ about Richard Davis and his solo. Davis was (is) one of the great bass talents as witness his performances on those lovely Booker Ervin “book series” records. Useless trivia: he also played bass on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Next, if you modify your Popsike search to be “Dorham 84181” you’ll discover a few more high price stereo copies to add to your data set.

    I really like what you’ve done with your visual reference guide. I’ve got a NM stereo first pressing, so I’ll drop it on the digital scales for you to see if I can confirm your weigh-in figures. Is it sad of me to admit that the concept of focused “collectors field guides” has been rattling around in my head lately? I’ve been musing over those photo book services as a way to create one-off nicely printed artefacts at not-too-outrageous prices. I was toying with volumes like “The Prestige Records of The First Great Miles Davis Quintet” or “The Emarcy Records of the Clifford Brown/ Max Roach Quintet” or “The Riverside Records of the Bill Evans Trio” – you get the idea. Small, focused, coffee table glitz but highly informative for the discerning cognoscenti. Maybe we could club together as LJC readers and knock up a couple. Or is this lockdown finally impairing my sanity?

    • Martin, shoot me the metrics of vinyl, cover and possibly inner weight, to confirm my estimates.

      I am taken with the Collector’s Collector Guide niche. Japan edition first.

      I’m working on a prototype for really high value collectables. Right now I’ve looked at 500 copies of Blue Train. My head hurts but I can see a way into it.

      • Cover = 130g, vinyl = 159g. No original inner sleeve with my copy but you can easily weigh one from another contemporaneous record (which I bet you did already).

  5. I am still confused by a few points. Could you summarize the differences between the original 1965 release and the Liberty 1966 release shown on your “Visual Reference Guide.” TY

    • The only real differences between my Liberty and the Blue Note original are the absence of the Plastylite “P” on the Liberty, and the accompanying inner picture sleeve (26 Years with the original pressing, the second 27 Years with the Liberty)

      Both the Blue Note original and the Liberty are pressed with stampers derived from the same Van Gelder master, hence identical matrix code etching and RVG Stereo mastering stamps.

      Liberty used the same stock of NY labels printed by Keystone for Blue Note, left over from the original pressing. The cover is likewise one left over from the original Blue Note release.

      The Liberty/NY vinyl weight may be very slightly less – my Liberty NY pressings (28) average 150 grams, a tad lighter than Plastylite in 1965.

      Hopefully that is a bit clearer.

  6. Nice post, LJC. “Trompeta Toccata” is the best album by Dorham, in my humble opinion. And since practically all of his albums are truly great, this means a lot. I love the sound on this album.

    I have a Stereo, Side A only Deep Groove pressing and while I wouldn’t trade it in for a mono pressing, I notice some light distortion at the very beginning of the first track, with Kenny’s trumpet bleeding through from the left to the right channel when it should clearly stay in the left. After the intro, the distortion is gone. I am not sure whether or not this is a similar case to the Horace Silver – Horace-Scope 1st Stereo pressing issue, where every owner of this pressing reports about heavy distortion on the title track (last one on Side A), with Blue Mitchell’s trumpet bleeding through from the left to the right channel (for a minute or so). Clearly a mastering issue.

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment on bass and drum solos. I think there is some truth to your comment regarding bass solos when it comes to 50’s and early 60’s hard bop (which was often times quite monotonous) , but I only came to fully appreciate the level of nuance and texture a bass can add to a performance after focusing on late 60’s to late 70’s jazz. And Richard Davis is, next to Cecil McBee, Henry Franklin and others, a great example of a bass player who doesn’t just play a bass line but actually improvises and contributes developing the tracks harmonically.


  7. Where on your site can I find the article called “Get Magnetized”? Thanks, Thomas Grund

    On Sun, Apr 26, 2020 at 6:27 PM LondonJazzCollector wrote:

    > LondonJazzCollector posted: “Selection: Mamacita (Henderson) . . . > Tocatta – “a virtuoso piece of music featuring fast-moving, lightly > fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections” (Wiki) Artists Kenny > Dorham, trumpet; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Tommy Flana” >

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