Bob Dogan Sings Ballads
Bob Dogan Bob Dogan is one of the most revered and enigmatic players on the Chicago music scene. A member of the old guard, he's one of the last men standing - a testament to the glory days and the roots of modern jazz. He's concurrently a figure of unwavering artistic vision and uncompromising ideals. He has lived and performed through the genre's greatest periods and has remained a working pianist through all of the ups and downs jazz musicians have dealt with in the changing music industry. And he's done this all while maintaining his conception of the ideal musical form. When you hear Bob perform, you're always getting a true version of himself. He'll be performing on an acoustic piano, he'll be featuring some of his many compositions, and you won't be able to overlook his one of a kind linear and harmonic concept. It's truly a marvel and a testament to Bob's musicianship that he has stood the test of time without bending to it. This being said, Robert Dogan, now in his 70s, is simultaneously a piece of history and supremely relevant to the state of jazz today. I first became aware of Bob and his music several years ago when Mike Ferro, a former roommate of Bob's and one of his greatest champions, put together a band to perform versions of Bob's compositions on a Sunday afternoon at a concert of the Chicago Jazz Composers' Collective held once a month at The Green Mill. No one was quite sure how the audience, accustomed to acoustic jazz, would react to raucous fusion versions of songs with titles like, "Ole Fat Lady" and "Ming Returns." In fact, we weren't sure how Bob, who would remain in the audience for this concert of his music, would react to these treatments. The reception was resoundingly positive though despite the venue, and I left thinking Bob was a quirky fusion writer. I was soon to learn of Bob's reputation as a primarily acoustic jazz pianist who wrote brilliant short form compositions often with a humorous streak. Needless to say, I was surprised when Ferro approached me about recording a new Bob Dogan record. The surprise wasn't simply that this was to be a solo piano recording, but that it was also to feature Bob's singing. On several occasions through the years, Mike had tried and failed to get Bob to record an album of vocals. A while back he decided to give it one more shot, and to his surprise, Bob agreed, though he had hardly sung in years, Bob has always felt that every musician can sing and should sing. Hearing Dogan play and sing, you can hear what he means. Every note, every phrase is bare-boned and honest, free of artifice of any kind. In spite of, or perhaps because of, his chronic emphysema, Bob's singing cuts straight to the heart. I should also note that Bob's recording style is somewhat anachronistic. In this age of digital manipulation and pitch correction, he insisted that the recording process be a representation of his true self. Every take is a complete, unedited performance from beginning to end. There were no punches, splices, overdubs, or tuning. He even preferred to record using the acoustics of the room, forgoing the typical headphone monitoring in order to react to the natural sound. The resulting recording is a true portrait of the artist. And in this case we have the privilege of peering through a rare window to his soul: his voice. Vijay Tellis-Nayak.