Devil May Care, the 1956 debut album from Bob Dorough, ebulliently announced the arrival of a different kind of jazz singer -- one who was not only hip to bebop, but other liberating musical ideas of the day. Like his friend Blossom Dearie, Dorough was unapologetic about his voice's dissimilarity from jazz singers of previous eras, and set about to radically recast his role. Dorough accompanies himself on piano, backed by trumpeter Warren Fitzgerald, vibist Jack Hitchcock, drummer Jerry Segal and longtime bassist/friend Bill Takas.
The album opens on "Old Devil Moon," with Dorough swinging the classic Harburg-Lane number with the soft-spoken tones of a hip elf -- and in an impressionistic arrangement of "Polka Dots And Moonbeams," his hushed delivery brings his voice going so low it nearly scrapes the chassis. He turns Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole" into an anthropomorphic hipster's fable, and he remakes Rodgers and Hart number "Johnny One Note" at full tilt, with Hitchcock's vibes ringing in the background like a racetrack bell.
Dorough's bop heritage is explored on Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow," sung entirely wordlessly, and followed by elaborate, yet low-key, scatting. And, as an early vocalese practitioner, Dorough adds his own lyrics to Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite," which he delivers with a quiet intensity as a loving homage to the legend who'd died only a year before. (This reissue features an alternate version of this track.)
Dorough's songcraft -- which would become more prominent as his career progressed -- is represented by the sharply-swinging "You're The Dangerous Type," and the lyrical, yet angular melody "Devil May Care." That title track would go on to become a classic, covered electrifyingly by Miles Davis in the early '60s and, more recently, by Diana Krall and Claire Martin.
This second reissue of Devil May Care was probably prompted by Dorough's latter-day success as a Blue Note artist, and serves to remind his new fans of the deep roots of his delightful songcraft. (reviewed for CDNow by Drew Wheeler)