Friday Evening Jazz: Dexter Gordon

FNJ has a guest DJ tonite: BondDaddy is in the house!

Dexter Gordon is one of the greatest tenor sax players. He had a strong tone and incredible sense of melody. Some players like Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson had a slippery sense of time; their phrases speed up and slow down, moving within the rythm section’s accompaniment. Not Dexter. Dex’s time was rock solid, never wavering. The rythm section had to accompany his time.

Our_man_in_parisHis playing is incredibly melodic, easily followed by the listener. Ideas naturally morphed from one to the other, always following a logical pattern. However, he was also able to surprise listeners with a run into upper chordal extensions.

His playing provides a logical link between Parker and Coltrane. Dex used many ideas from Parker, but played them with a tone that was deep, bold and soulful.  His tone provides the link to Coltrane, who also favored a deep and rich tenor tone.

Gordon swung — and swung hard. If your feet are not tapping within 8 bars of his starting to play, you’re just not listening.

Our Man in Paris:
This be-bop session is a meeting between three of the most influential
musicians of the forties. The rhythms crackle, the solos fly; Our Man
In Paris is essential Dexter. A nice compilation of standards.

HomecomingHomecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard. Dex lived in Amsterdam for about 10 years, and this was the album be made when he came back. Very cool set. Woody Shaw is on Trumpet, and the two work really well together. THis is Dexter at the very top of his game (and probably one of the top 25 live jazz albums of all time).

He also starred in the Round Midnight, probably the best jazz movie ever made

Go:  Its been widely reported Gordon himself considered this his greatest achievement. Brimming with conviction and poise, Gordon’s gentle-giant sax carries itself with a sort of graceful edge that is difficult to emulate. Never has anyone made the diminished scale sound so musical.


Ballads: This is a compilation of his ballads (duh), and he could play just beautifully on these. Gordon delivers his almost sleepy and smoke-filled solos with real grace. Some of the most romantic playing you will every hear.



Videos after the jump



Incidentally, there are tons of videos of Dexter posted; Here are a few:

I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry

Loose Walk

More Than You Know

Thanks to Hale "Bond Dad" Stewart for tonite’s FNJ

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Rob Dawg commented on Apr 25

    “Cheese Cake” from the aforementioned album “Go.”

  2. km4 commented on Apr 25

    I saw Marcus Miller at Yoshi’s in SF last evening.

    A phenomenal and very entertaining performance that I highly highly recommend !

  3. km4 commented on Apr 25

    I saw Marcus Miller at Yoshi’s in SF last evening.

    A phenomenal and very entertaining performance that I highly highly recommend !

  4. tomha commented on Apr 25

    Go! and “Dexter Calling” are my favorites. The Go album is on display in my office. Both have great 60’s covers. Dexter was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in ‘Round Midnight (he lost to Paul Newman).

  5. dano commented on Apr 25

    My vote is for the Album “One Flight Up”. The forst cut, Tanya, os by far one of the most beautifully haunting fo the hard bop tunes ever recorded… Like Herbie Hancocks “speak like a child”, it defines a certain sound that just speaks to you.

    I have all of Dex’s stuff, and for the unitiated I would rank the best three as:

    1) GO
    2) One Flight Up
    3) Our Man in Paris

  6. riverrat commented on Apr 26

    I’ll second dano’s comments about [I]One Flight Up[/I] and add that the cut “Tanya” is 18 minutes of pure bliss!

    If you ever see the OOP “Complete Dexter Gordon Blue Note Sessions” 6CD box set, pick it up without hesitation!

  7. Joshua commented on Apr 26

    This is how the excellent “Penguin Guide to Jazz” rates Gordon’s seven classic albums for Blue Note (at least in my edition):

    Doin’ Alright (1961) ****
    Dexter Calling (1961) ***
    Go! (1962) ***
    A Swingin’ Affair (1962) ***
    Our Man In Paris ((1963) ****
    One Flight Up (1964) ***(*)
    Gettin’ Around (1965) ***(*)

    Incidentally, if you do intend to buy all seven, you should give “Ballads” a miss as it only consists of tracks from these Blue Note albums.

  8. larrybob commented on Apr 26

    You’re neglecting early Dex: If you have not had the pleasure of hearing his duels with Wardell Grey, you’re in for a treat. The Hunt and the Chase are just simply classic tenor cutting sessions, awe inspiring to say the least.
    For later Dex (late 70’s-80’s), the recent Mosaic Select box is a very good place to start as well.
    And don’t forget those Steeplechase lps that Dex recorded while living in Europe. Just ’cause Ken Burns thinks no jazz occurred from the mid 60’s to the rise of Wynton, doesn’t mean it’s so. A date of Dex and Jackie McLean comes to mind as being especially tasty.

  9. John Stark commented on Apr 26

    Hard to rank Dexter’s Blue Notes–If you like one you will like them all–but my favorite is “Doin’ Alright” which pairs Dexter with Freddie Hubbard. At first glance the pairing seems unlikely, but for me the contrasting styles make intriguing music.

  10. JF commented on Apr 26

    One Flight Up is fantastic……Dexter Calling a close 2nd. Love the FNJ…….nice job by the guest host…….

  11. dpato commented on Apr 26

    Glad I’m not the only one. Been listening to these albums since the mid-70’s. They never grow old, timeless is the word.

  12. EB commented on Apr 26

    I saw Dexter live at “The Flight Deck” at the Wilmington De airport back about 1980. Great show, intimate setting. He’d take his sax and hold it length horizontal and bow to you or his fellow players. Good music.

  13. Richard Kline commented on Apr 27

    If you can find it, and it’s very out of print and hence hard to get, and are willing to pay for it, Dexter Gordon’s _Complete Blue Note Session_ is a total joy. Complete session order on nearly all of his material from ’61 to ’65. The temporal parallax of a listen through shows Dex growing as a composer; he was already an outstanding blower with a fully formed style by this time. My personal favorites are his duos with trumpet players, notably Donald Byrd, and hence the sessions for _One Flight Up_ stand out for me, though others favor the quartet material for _Go_, not a bad choice.

    In terms of the joy in playing and hard swingin’ sense, I take the most pleasure in Dex’s sound of any tenor of his time. Booker Ervin could rock out though. Coltrane is a beast of really a different order; he’s left swing behind for a modal freeverse of his own nature, rather like some early frost giant building the World from his own body.

  14. Howard Veit commented on Apr 27

    I hate bop. I stopped listening to jazz altogether for years because I hate it. Just lately a lot of the guys are once again playing discernible melodies and I’m listening again. I have always regarded bop as chamber music for musicians only and the public be dammed.

  15. dano commented on Apr 28

    to each his onw, but by hating it, you sure are missing out on a lot of great material. Try some Horace Silver sometime, you may change your mind…

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