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NOVEMBER 1 & 2
In the past decade, cult jazz singers who had been refining their art in tiny clubs and on obscure record labels since the 1950s—Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Jimmy Scott—have emerged from the underground to reach mainstream audiences. Now it’s Bob Dorough’s turn. The idiosyncratic vocalist-pianist-songwriter’s music is surfacing everywhere. Rhino’s four-CD Schoolhouse Rock collection has reintroduced his voice and compositions to several generations raised on the ABC-TV cartoon series. Recent reissues of Dorough’s 1956 debut album, Devil May Care, and the 1966 Just About Everything are reaching larger audiences than when originally released; he even turns up on two long-forgotten 1962 tracks on the new six-CD Miles Davis-Gil Evans box. The most endearing and uplifting jazz singer-instrumentalist since Louis Armstrong, the Arkansas-bred Dorough can elicit beaming smiles from card-carrying grinches. This weekend, at One Step Down, his impish, high-pitched singing, fluent, unconventional pianistics (inflected with classical, bebop, and avant-garde devices), and buoyant, life-affirming compositions will be spreading joy, supported by the bass of Bill Takas, his collaborator for four decades. For a special treat, request some of Dorough’s pop-art songs—ingenious musical settings of “found texts,” including a laundry ticket, a Social Security card, an air-sick bag, a five-dollar bill, and a recipe for apple pie. “Do Not Remove This Tag Under Penalty of Law,” an upholstery label transformed into a rollicking gospel tune, is just the ticket to raise your spirits on a chilly November evening. At 10 p.m. at One Step Down, 2517 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. $12.50. (202) 331-8863. (Joel E. Siegel)