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The Coolest Octogenarian in America

If you know of any 88-year oids in America who are any cooler than Bob Dorough, please tell me. There aren't many more beloved than he in his age neighborhood either outside of Betty White.

And in one of the great concerts of this season, he'll be appearing at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Burchfield Penny Art Center on the Buffalo State Colleage Campus.

The main reason Dorough inspires so much love in America is that at least two generations grew up listening to his witty and altogether brilliant instructional songs for "Schoolhouse Rock" and "Multiplication Rock." There are, then, people all over America who can still, at a moment's notice, sing "Three's a Magic Number, "Elementary My Dear," "My Hero Zero" and perhaps the most beautiful of all, "Figure Eight" which Dorough wrote but Blossom Dearie sang in winking pixie voice. ("Put it on its side and it's a symbol for infinity," a sublime ending for a song which everyone has to remind themselves was written for chiildren after all.) 

What you have to understand, though, is that by then Dorough had already had a career as one of the great singer/songwriter/pianists in jazz. Miles Davis --always an impeccable judge of talent--was so impressed by Dorough he invited him into the studio to record "Blue Christmas" with him. The songs he writes and sings in his light, high voice rival those of Dave Frishberg and even Mose Allison for jazz wit.

He's one of the great living jazz figures--still--and he's coming to the Burchfield Penny Arts Center on Thursday.

--Jeff Simon

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