Dexter Gordon

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Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon (February 27, 1923 - April 25, 1990) was an American tenor saxophone musician. He is considered the first foremost hard bop tenor player. From 1940 to 1980, he played with such jazz greats as Lionel Hampton, Tadd Dameron, Charles Mingus, Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine. He also played with the Fletcher Henderson band in L.A. for a few weeks in 1947.

Life and works

Gordon is particularly famous for his titanic saxophone duels with fellow tenorman Wardell Gray, which were a popular live attraction that also produced several albums between 1947 and 1952.

Many would characterise Gordon's sound as being 'large' and spacious and his tendency to play behind the beat is discernible. One of his major influences was Lester Young. While never considered as revolutionary as Charlie Parker or John Coltrane, his influence is still heard in modern jazz saxophonists. One of his idiosyncrasies was reciting the lyrics of all ballads before performing them.

Gordon notably made two appearances in cinema during his life. The first movie appearance occurred, oddly enough, while in prison for possession of heroin. He portrayed an inmate playing in the prison band in Unchained, though the soundtrack was later overdubbed.

He was composer, musician, and actor in the play 'The Connection' in 1960. After that, he spent 15 years playing and living in Europe, mostly in Paris and Copenhaegen. He concerted regularly with fellow ex-pat jazzmen like Bud Powell, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Drew, Horace Parlan and Billy Higgins. He also visited the States occasionally for recording dates, resulting in several albums being released under his name. Generally, the seven albums he recorded for Blue Note Records in the 1960s (Doin' Allright, Dexter Calling..., Go, A Swingin' Affair, Our Man in Paris, One Flight Up, and Gettin' Around) are regarded as his finest sessions.

Gordon finally returned to the United States for good in 1976, and appeared in the Village Vanguard, NY for a gig that was dubbed as his 'homecoming'. Dexter noted 'There was so much love and elation; sometimes it was a little eerie at the Vanguard. After the last set they'd turn on the lights and nobody would move'. After this appearance, he would release several more albums that proved he was as good if not better than before his years in Europe and finally gained appreciation as one of the great jazz tenors.

In 1986, he starred in the movie ''Round Midnight', in which he played the role of a musician much like himself; some have suggested the role is thinly veiled autobiography. He recieved a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. Gordon is a member of the Jazz Hall of Fame, and a voted musician of the year by 'Down Beat' magazine in the years 1978 and 1980.

Trivia

  • Gordon's height was 6' 5'' and consequently he was nicknamed known as 'Long Tall Dex'.

Quotations

  • 'Dexter always had that big sound, from the early days. He's a big man. Stands to reason he's gotta lot of lungs' - Zoot Sims on Dexter's unique sound.

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