Reviews & Opinions

JD Jazz CD Release: The Frank & Joe Show

(This article first ran in the May 14, 2009 Erie Times-News Showcase section).

Contributing Writer

An encounter nearly 30 years ago in Boston became a musical partnership and friendship that thrives today as a major contributor to the Erie jazz scene.

Almost since their first meeting at a jam session in Bean Town circa 1979-80, guitarist Frank Singer and drummer/vocalist Joe Dorris have been a sort of "Frank and Joe Show." They brought their act to erie in 1990.

"We both like challenges; we want to be the best players we can, and we know that's a life long job," says Singer, a native of Mount Holly, NJ.

Says Dorris, born and raised in Erie, "We like music that gets your adrenalin going. We're both into martial arts and working out, and that has kept us interested in producing high-energy music."

If you're a jazz fan in Erie, almost anywhere you turn, you will find one or the other or both in well established bands or in the thick of jazz activities. Both are volunteers, BTW, with JazzErie.

Their major collaborationation comes in the group Cat's a Bear. Singer also is a member of One World Tribe and J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm, and he and Dorris shared the bandstand in pianist Basil Ronzitti's house band backing major out of town artists at the late, lamented Papermoon.

Cat's a Bear has recorded three CDs, but now comes a new venture for Frank and Joe-a duo CD with Frank on guitar, and Joe coming out from behind his trap set to sing.

The guys will unwrap the CD officially Saturday night at Scotty's.

The CD, titled "And That's OK." (Naked Kitty Productions), finds our players tackling a hip selection of a dozen pop and jazz standards, most familiar ("Stella By Starlight," "Willow Weep for Me"), some lesser known ("Have You Met Miss Jones," "After You've Gone"), and a couple welcome surprises (jazz classics like Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and Sonny Rollins' "Doxy," plus a moving ballad titled "Silent Love").

Now 50, Singer has been playing guitar since age 11, and most area jazz fans are familiar with his playing-intelligent, expressive, swinging, and often a technically dazzling mix of rich chords and fleet, cleanly articulated single-note runs.

"I'm right there in the moment when I play. I want to play what I feel--some days raw energy, some days, my deep soul," says Singer.

"You'll hear plenty of Singer on the CD, not only soloing, but also in his intros and often exciting and sensitive accompaniment of Dorris' soulful, swinging, scat-filled vocals.

On the other hand, while Dorris' rumbling, raucous powerhouse drumming is a familiar sight and sound, his singing will catch many by surprise because he doesn't do it that often.

He's been vocalizing since 15, however, beginning in a band with his brother in which all members had to sing. "I got stuck singing all the high parts," recalls Dorris.

Joe's next stop was a country band named Whiskey River. "Whiskey isn't too good for the vocal cords," Dorris laughs.

You getting the idea here? "The voice just starts to wear out," says Dorris.

Which brings us to 2009, Joe Dorris at 53, and a voice that it would be an understatement to describe as unusual.

Dorris suggests you think Tom Waits, Louis Armstrong, and Dr. John for starters, as others do.

"Or just think of a big man of color," says Dorris, who unseen, but heard, is often thought to be African-American.

Gravelly, gruff, growling, Joe's voice is the lowest of the low. Almost painful to listen to at first, it grows on folks who realize there is more to singing than tonal purity.

"Singing allows me to be a better drummer because I learn the melody of lots of songs," says Dorris. "I'm proud of my singing. I've gained a lot of acceptance," he says, adding after a pause for dramatic effect, "A lot of people think I sound sexy."

CD Release Party for vocalist Joe Dorris and guitarist Frank Singer, with guest artist, bassist Steve Trohoske; 10 p.m. Saturday; Scotty's, Jazz & Cigars, 801 German St.; 459-3800. $5 cover; CDs on sale for $10.

Bob PROTZMAN has written about jazz for five decades and hosts "Everything Jazz,'' 3-6 p.m. Fridays, JAZZ FM 88.5 and 104.9

June 26, 2011