Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in New York City

Jazz Alley in Seattle

Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge in Denver

 

Ronnie Scott's in London

Yoshi's Jazz Club in San Francisco

 

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Wednesday
Feb262014

Dexter Gordon - The Sophisticated Giant [Feb 27, 1923 - April 25, 1990] By Jonathan Martin

Guest Post

Jonathan Martin is a Jazz Trumpet Player, Composer, and stay home Dad. He is the author of Ear Training for Music: Hearing Inside Out, the only online Ear Training that is Mobile and Comprehensive. And ii V7 Jazz Studies
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If your not hip to the magic that is known as Dexter Gordon, here is your chance to get acquainted!

 

Saxophonist Dexter Gordon

 

One of my favorite all time tenor players, Dexter Gordon was the top of cool. His stage manner, and the way he managed the band from behind the horn always blows me away.


He could conduct the rhythm section, and tell them what he wanted them to do with just a note. Sometimes he did it with silence, too. It was simply amazing.

His improvisations were so melodic it was more like he was composing on the spot. He had a wonderful way of drawing out a sequence from one lyrical idea, then repeating it down a step and making it fit inside the next harmonic phrase.


Whether he played up tempo burners, or slow bebop ballads you can tell from his recordings that his mind was always on the melody. His solos were always lyrical. If you listen closely you can almost hear him speak through the notes on his horn.

I haven't even mentioned the sultry warmth and depth of his tone despite the fact that he played on a metal mouthpiece.

 



Dexter's albums and improvisations were undoubtedly high art of the best quality. His music was further distinguished by it's accessibility. It was easy to listen to and understand; even by listeners who are not experts or connoisseurs of jazz.

He got his start playing professionally in the Lional Hampton Big Band. He was also featured in the bands of Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine.

By the mid-1940's, Dexter had struck out on his own to pursue a recording career as a solo artist. He fronted his own small groups and appeared as a sideman on the recordings of other well known jazz artists.

He influenced the playing of a young John Coltrane, and in turn was himself influenced by 'Trane in later years.

 



He enjoyed 15 years of artistic freedom and audience appreciation by moving to Europe during the 60's and early 70's. He spent his time in Paris, France and Copenhagen, Denmark. While there, he was able to record extensively with other notable artists such as: visiting Americans, Freddie Hubbard, Bud Powell, Kenny Drew and Bobby Hutcherson. He also recorded with Europe's finest Jazz artists such as; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Tete Montoliu.

The Village Vanguard welcomed Dexter back to the US in 1976 by hosting his group for a gig and recording session. The resulting album was named "Homecoming".

It is interesting to note that thoughout his playing career Dexter remained faithful to the acoustic format. He didn't experiment with electric instruments or electronics. All he needed to get his point across, all he needed to be entertaining was a standard rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; and to be occasionally joined by other horn players.

He was well recognized in his lifetime as an elder statesman of Jazz. He won the Downbeat Musician of the Year for 1978 and 1980, and is now Honored in the Downbeat Hall of Fame.

Even with such recognition we can never repay the debt of gratitude we owe to Dexter Gordon for sharing the gift of his music with us for so many years. And, now through his recordings, forever.

 

Jonathan Martin is a Jazz Trumpet Player, Composer, and stay home Dad. He is the author of Ear Training for Music: Hearing Inside Out, the only online Ear Training that is Mobile and Comprehensive. And ii V7 Jazz Studies
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