Joel Dorn
"Article in BluesWax"
with Bob Putignano

Joel Dorn the legendary record producer who gave us classic listening moments with the likes of Roberta Flack, The Neville Brothers, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Dr. John, and even produced a track for the Allman Brothers when he was asked to fill in for Tom Dowd (more on that later.) Dorn is also a wonderful storyteller, who can hold the attention of both music fans and non music fans with his smooth DJ voice, and keen/unique wit. Mid '60's- after pestering the Ertegun's at Atlantic Records for a chance to make records, Joel reached his goal at the fabled record label and had an incredible run with Atlantic from 1967-1974. In quick time Dorn won two Grammy's with Roberta Flack, who was introduced as a recommendation from his good buddy/pianist Les McCann.

It has been a long time since Dorn produced his first recording by flutist Hubert Laws, and the LP 'The Laws of Jazz- 1964' proved so successful that by 1967, Dorn was full-time at Atlantic as Ertergun's assistant, working as producer, in A&R, and in marketing departments, it was no surprise that Dorn rapidly rose to the position of Vice President. During those learning years, Dorn created a fresh sound at Atlantic where he often utilized the services of crack studio musicians like: Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Cornell Dupree, Eric Gale, Jerry Jemmott, Richard Tee, Fathead Newman, Hank Crawford, Willis 'Gatortail' Jackson, and many others, who were essentially the crème de la crème of the music scene. What made Joel unique was the fact he used a lot of these top shelf musicians in both pop and jazz recordings. All in all Dorn has been involved in some capacity on around five hundred recordings, as producer, compilation producer, series producer, arranger, engineer, photographer, writing liner notes, and as a background vocalist! For a complete listing of Joel's extensive & impressive credits go to: Beware this list is five pages long, and far too long to list here.

When Dorn left Atlantic in 1974, he went to work with a diverse range of artists including The Neville Brothers, Lou Rawls, Leon Redbone, Asleep at the Wheel, and Mink DeVille. Then on to Night Records where he issued previously unreleased live material from his old buddies Les McCann, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Cannonball Aderley. In the mid 90's, he formed Label M & 32 Records. Dorn's most recent labelis the NY based Hyena Records where Dorn served as a re-issue specialist, the most significant being two wonderful live Dr. John releases, (taken from Mac's personal recordings that he gave to Dorn) 'All By Hisself' & 'Right Place, Right Time,' plus a gorgeous Joe Williams recording, and two Bobby Darin releases one of which is a DVD/CD, and more recently a Darin DVD. Joel was also jazz great Rahsaan Roland Kirk's producer, and at Hyena, he has released several of the late Kirk's live performances, including Rahsaan's astonishing 'Brotherman in the Fatherland.'

Today Dorn is no longer associated with Hyena, and as of February, 2007 Joel told me he is doing commercials for Time Life and producing a singer/songwriter Leslie Mendleson for Ryko records, more info about Leslie can be found at:

Hanging out with Dorn is sitting with a living piece of modern day music history, I have spoken and interviewed many recording artists and industry people, but none have the depth and experience of Joel Dorn. Let's face it, Joel not only produced and created a lot of great music, he formulated musical history! On recent visits to WFDU, Joel spoke about hanging with the likes of Duane Allman, King Curtis, Monk, Rahsaan, Les McCann, Michael Brecker, Doc Pomus, Fathead Newman, Hank Crawford, Ruth Brown, Dr. John, basically a who's who of modern day recording.

Dorn on King Curtis: "Curtis had the respect; musicians all looked up to him, that's why he got the gig to do Aretha's classic 'Live at the Fillmore West.' He also was a great guy and when I first arrived in New York we just hit it off. One day he says- lets go uptown to this place, so I said okay, we arrive at this weird neighborhood, in a rundown building, where Curtis is allowed to enter, as the door opens I see it's a heroin and coke cutting operation, so Curtis sticks his finger in a uncut batch of coke and sticks it in my mouth, and proceeds to tell me that that is the stuff, and says- now if you are going to mess with this stuff, make sure it tastes like this, otherwise it could kill you! I took this adventure with Curtis as being a kind gesture, as I felt in an offbeat way he wanted to protect me from the perils of drug addiction. Not that I'm any kind of angel, but you have to remember I was just a kid at that time, and what Curtis did for me will always remain special to me.

Dorn on Duane Allman: "So I get this call from Tommy Dowd that he can't make a recording session with the Allman Brothers, and he asks me to fill in for him. Dowd proceeds to tell me- just watch those guys very closely as they are pretty crazy and they may dose your drink with drugs. You have to understand that Dowd was a straight arrow, and I only occasionally saw him with a drink in his hand, and never any drugs. So I told Tommy, really? And with a glazed eyed smile Dorn says, this won't be a problem for me! Out of that adventure I got to produce one track "Please Call Home' for the Allman's 'Idlewild South.' I am proud to have had that experience with the Allman's, and afterwards Duane and I became running partners. Hanging out with Duane and King Curtis was wild, man we had great times together, and Duane wanted to record with a lot of jazz cats, unfortunately time ran out."

Dorn & Ruth Brown: I got to observe a conversation with Ruth Brown & Joel one afternoon, and Joel asks Ruth if she could verify a story Doc Pomus told Joel, and proceeds to ask Ruth if previous husband was a tailor, Ruth went all flush and gushes saying- yes Gatortail, he was a fabulous tailor who made a lot of my clothes, besides- you know I have good taste! Joel then asked Ruth how she was doing with collecting royalties, and Ruth replies- well you know some days I get enough money to buy a loaf of bread, lots of laughs, and Joel goes on to say the royalty collections should be an Olympic event, more laughs abound!

Dorn on the great Tom Dowd: "Dowd was truly a genius, he invented slide pot for mixing boards, he was on the Manhattan Project. Tommy was a superb engineer who also went on to become an excellent producer. Tommy just loved the music, its just unfortunate that he did not receive what he deserved, but you have to know that Tommy was a quiet and easy going guy, a real human being, and incredibly important. One night Tom and I head down to the Blue Note in NYC, and Ray Charles is there, after the first song, Ray starts to talk to the crowd and asks Dowd to stand up to be acknowledged, Ray says- if I am worth 10 cents, well Tom Dowd is 9 cents of me, Dorn goes on to say- you could hear a pin drop at the Blue Note, and that is how important Tommy was to Brother Ray, and to so many others. I'm just glad I knew Tom Dowd and got to learn from him. I just wish that he could have lived longer to get more cookies. You saw that Tom Dowd documentary 'The Language of Music' well I hope that movie touches somebody somewhere-the way it touched everyone who knew Tommy" This April Joel Dorn will turn 65 years old, and he has not lost a step, and Dorn still has the desire to continue to create music. I have had the honor to sit with Joel at WFDU many times, you can still see the excitement in his eyes when he hears a good tune, and really lit up when I had a band playing live in the studio, he is that youthful, and still very passionate. Did I also mention that Joel is one of the nicest guys in the industry too? No doubt, as Joel always helps with our fund drives. Here is to many more musical projects from a true master of the recording business- Joel Dorn.

Bob Putignano,

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society