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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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DEXTER GORDON

Three Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 1138

 

 

CD1

Dexter Blows Hot And Cool

1. Silver Plated

2. Cry Me A River

3. Rhythm Mad

4. Don’t Worry About Me

5. I Hear Music

6. Bonna Rua

7. I Should Care

8. Blowin’ For Dootsie

9. Tenderly

Dexter Gordon - Tenor sax

Carl Perkins - Piano

Leroy Vinnegar - Bass

Chuck Thompson - Drums

Jimmy Robinson - Trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 6 )

The Resurgence Of Dexter Gordon

10. Home Run

11. Dolo

12. Lovely Lisa

13. Affair In Havana

14. Jodi

15. Field Day

Dexter Gordon - Tenor sax

Martin Banks - Trumpet

Richard Boone - Trombone

Charles “Dolo” Coker - Piano

Charles Green - Bass

Lawrence Marable - Drums

CD2

Daddy Plays The Horn

1. Daddy Plays The Horn

2. Confirmation

3. Darn That Dream

4. Number Four

5. Autumn In New York

6. You Can Depend On Me

Dexter Gordon - Tenor sax

Kenny Drew - Piano

Leroy Vinnegar - Bass

Lawrence Marable - Drums

This Time The Drum’s On Me

7. Diggin’ For Diz

8. Ruby My Dear

9. Tune Up

10. Day In, Day Out

11. Stanley The Steamer

12. This Time The Drum’s On Me

Stan Levey - Drums

Conte Candoli - Trumpet

Dexter Gordon - Tenor sax

Frank Rosolino - Trombone

Leroy Vinnegar - Bass

Lou Levy - Piano

As World War II was coming to an end in 1944-45, the West Coast of the United States and particularly Los Angeles, became a crucible for the nascent bebop movement, particularly the area around Central Avenue in that city. One of the key figures in that development was tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon who, along with another singular musician Wardell Gray, teamed up for concerts and recordings that energized listeners and gave a solid foundation to the genre. There is an excellent book by Ted Gioia entitled West Coast Jazz - Modern Jazz In California 1945-1960 which offers many details of the people, places, and music that thrived in this area over this time-frame.

The period covered by these recordings is 1955, in order of which they were recorded to whit, Daddy Plays The Horn, This Time The Drum’s On Me, plus Dexter Blows Hot And Cool. The other recording, The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon, is from 1960. During the five-year gap between these dates, Gordon did not record anything under his own name, as he was dealing with a drug problem that interfered with his ability to play, and which did cause him to be incarcerated again for a few months during this period for a parole violation.

It is unfortunate that Avid decided to split up the 1955 sessions between the two discs, rather than make them consecutive which would have been far more sensible. However that does not prevent this review from dealing with them in that more logical manner. The Dexter Gordon of the first three above referenced albums was in relatively good performance form as he had spent almost two years in prison for heroin possession starting towards the end of 1952, and hence he may have been clean. The first album was a quartet session with the redoubtable Kenny Drew on piano which contributed to the overall effectiveness of the date. Gordon blew with strength and conviction, starting with Daddy Plays The Horn followed by a strongly layered effort on the Charlie Parker opus Confirmation with Drew drawing on his bop chops throughout. The balance of the album is equally engaging with Gordon swinging on his own tune Number Four and stylishly expressive on Autumn In New York.

The next release was not Gordon’s at all, but drummer Stan Levey's second album for Bethlehem. According to the liner notes, Gordon was a late addition to the session, as it already had a frontline of Conte Candoli on trumpet and Frank Rosolino on trombone. That is not to say that Gordon was not a welcome presence because he was, and the result was a real bop infused swinger. While most of the solo space is taken up by Candoli and Rosolino, when given a chance Gordon takes full advantage of the opportunity, starting with the opener Diggin’ For Diz . After Candoli does a dazzling lead, Gordon comes on to pick up the thread with an unrestrained compatibility. With his confident and full-bodied tone, Gordon does some of his best work on his own blues-line composition Stanley The Steamer. Although this session is more tightly scripted than the previous quartet album, it nevertheless confirms that Gordon was in full command of his instrument.

The final 1955 recording is primarily a quartet outing, but on three tracks trumpeter Jimmy Robinson joined the group. Robinson was a young little-known player at the time of this session. Although bop-oriented, he had a somewhat thin tone and his contribution was rather limited. Of greater significance was the inclusion of pianist Carl Perkins, whose single-note bop-driven style, meshed with what Gordon was trying to do. The set list was designed to complement Gordon’s strengths, and was a mixture of up-tempo numbers that were principally “head” arrangements in blues form, and standard ballads. For the most part, the recording produced fine music, with Gordon’s own compositions such as Silver Plated, Rhythm Dad and Blowin’ For Dootsie especially good. For most bop enthusiasts, there may have been too many ballads offered, but I Should Care, is worth pointing out.

The 1960 album was entitled The Resurgence Of Dexter but the appropriate word might have been Resurrection instead of Resurgence. For all intents and purposes, Gordon’s musical career was dead for five years after 1955. It was only at the insistence of Cannonball Adderley, who agreed to produce the album, that Gordon had a chance to go back into the studio. Although the label Jazzland was a small independent entity, and the sidemen for the session apart from drummer Lawrence Marable were mostly unheralded, the results were remarkably good. Of the six tracks laid down, two were Gordon originals, with the balance coming from pianist Coker. Although Gordon had done next to nothing musically for the previous five years, his skills had not diminished to any noticeable degree. On Dolo, one of Coker’s tunes, Gordon rips though the piece with a fierceness that belies any diminution in his skill. Affair In Havana is a pleasant change of pace as Coker has penned a Latin-themed composition that gives Gordon all the challenge he needs to demonstrate his virtuosity. In terms of Gordon’s own tunes, Jodi is a well-thought-out ballad that opens with pianist Coker delving into some Red Garland-like block chords that Gordon follows with a long solo that shows his usual command and expressiveness.

Ted Gioia in his previously referenced book, offers the following quotation about Dexter Gordon that sums up quite nicely these sessions: “Gordon developed one of the first great modern tenor sax styles…a persuasive and immediately recognizable sound all his own.”

Pierre Giroux



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