8 p.m. & 10 p.m. Sat., Feb. 27
Snug Harbor, 626 Frenchmen St., 949-0696; www.snugjazz.com
Bob Dorough is that rarity among contemporary jazzmen: a hipster who broke through to the masses. TV was the ticket, though many still probably don't recognize his name.
After more than two decades as a working jazz musician and songwriter, Dorough found a second life during the 1970s and 1980s as the primary songwriter and performer of music videos on the endearing ABC-TV Schoolhouse Rock series (including "Conjunction Junction" and "Three Is a Magic Number"). There's a good chance many Generation Xers first heard jazz-inflected music from his Saturday morning showcase.
Dorough belongs to another small jazz subset, the shrinking pool of former Miles Davis sidemen. He wrote and sang the wonderfully dark "Blue Xmas" for Davis' contribution to a 1962 Columbia Christmas sampler Jingle Jazz and later sang "Nothing Like You" on Davis' Sorcerer album. Mel Torme had a Top 40 hit with Dorough's "Comin' Home Baby," and Blossom Dearie had probably her biggest hit with "I'm Hip." More recently, Dorough hit the jazz cover artist jackpot: Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum both recorded "Devil May Care." There also is an album of Schoolhouse Rock covers by Ween, Blind Melon, Pavement and others.
Music historians refer to the tunes of Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Carmichael and their peers as the Great American Songbook. Dorough could be considered on the elder side of the generation that are conscious heirs to that tradition, sophisticated musicians like Dave Frishberg (who also wrote Schoolhouse Rock songs), Stephen Sondheim and Tom Lehrer. (Younger talents like Randy Newman and Mose Allison also make the list, with qualifiers.) These are brilliant wordsmiths and tune-crafters who consistently give us surprising rhymes (not near-rhymes) and memorable melodies, and who have (except for Newman) ignored rock 'n' roll and most subsequent pop conventions.
As Dorough put it in 1956, in his boppish "Devil May Care":
When the day is through I suffer no regrets
I know that he who frets, loses the night
For only a fool dreams he can hold back the dawn
He who is wise who never tries to revise what's past and gone.
Live love today, let come tomorrow what may
Don't even stop for a sigh, it doesn't help when you cry
That's why I live and I'll die, devil may care.
At 86, the ageless Dorough is at the top of his game, combining strong and eccentric singing and crazed piano playing on his rare solo gigs. This is his first New Orleans visit, and he will be joined by drummer Johnny Vidacovich (a longtime sideman to Mose Allison) and bassist Jesse Boyd.