Dexter Gordon: Live, '63 + '77


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In 1962, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon moved his base of operations to Copenhagen, Denmark, returning to the U.S. in 1976. Shortly after his move abroad, Gordon was recorded live at the Modern Jazz Club Persepolis in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on January 20, 1963. And shortly after his move back to the States, he was recorded at Espace Cardin, in Paris, on September 25, 1977. Both recordings have just been released and both are superb, capturing Gordon at the start of new chapters.

Gordon's appearance at Persepolis was the work of jazz promoter Jaap van de Klomp, who at 22 was a Persepolis board member. He wrote to Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, where Gordon had a steady gig. Jaap followed up with a phone call, promising Gordon the very best sidemen: Bob Madna (p), Budd Jacobs (b) and Cees See (d). Gordon agreed to come to Utrecht and perform two nights at Persepolis. Jaap called colleagues at Holland's VARA Radio, who recorded the second concert for a show. The original tapes were preserved and are now out as Dexter Gordon: In the Cave on the Nederlands Jazz Archief label.

As you might imagine with radio tape, the sound is clean and dynamic. The songs are Stanley the Steamer, Yesterdays, Benny Green's I Wanna Blow Now, Body and Soul (dig Madna's glorious piano solo and how Gordon backs into Nancy With the Laughing Face after the piano solo—genius!), Dexter's Deck and In the Cave. Hats off to Jaap!

In 1977, Gordon performed at Espace Cardin, within the Théâtre de la Ville de Paris complex. The concert was recorded and just released on Dexter Gordon Quartet, Espace Cardin 1977 (Elemental Music). Backing Gordon was Al Haig (p), Pierre Michelot (b) and Kenny Clarke (d), whose drums were mixed bombastically loud. On the other hand, it's pretty nifty to hear Clarke in action, not just keeping time.

The songs are Gordon's Sticky Wicket and A La Modal, Body and Soul, Gordon's Antabus, Sonny Rollins's Oleo and Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight, which features just Haig and the trio. On A La Modal, Gordon plays the soprano saxophone and works in tags from My Favorite Things, A Stranger in Paradise and Dearly Beloved while Haig appears to be playing Miles Davis's So What.

It's interesting to listen to these 1963 and 1977 recordings together, one after the other. We get to hear how Gordon matured as an artist in the 14 years between them in Europe. We also hear him with two excellent trios. This is especially true on Body and Soul, which appears on both albums. Gordon, of course, was extraordinary no matter where or when he was blowing.

Dexter Gordon died in 1990.

By the way, Maxine Gordon's Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (University of California Press), a memoir-biography, was just published. You'll find it here. 

JazzWax clips: Here's Stanley the Steamer in 1963...

And here's Sticky Wicket in 1977...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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