Dexter in Denmark, 1962


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At a New York bar In 1962, Dexter Gordon ran into saxophonist Ronnie Scott, the co-owner of Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London. Scott asked Gordon if he wanted to work there. Gorden, as his wife, Maxine, notes in her 2018 book, The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, had never been out of the country except for a brief visit to Mexico just over the border. Gordon surely asked Scott about pay and any other incentives he wanted. Then he agreed to play there, and they shook hands.

In anticipation, Gordon finished recording as many Blue Note albums as possible—including Landslide, Herbie Hancock's Takin' Off, Go! and A Swinging Affair. Then he was off to London in September. While Gordon was there, Harold Goldberg, one of the owners of Copenhagen's famed Jazzhus Montmartre called Ronnie Scott's and invited Gordon to perform at his club. Gordon agreed, but for some reason didn't arrive until several days after he was supposed to in early October. 

By November, the German TV show “An Ort und Stelle" ("On the Spot") caught wind of Copenhagen's heady jazz scene and decided to tape an episode there. The show had a hip, documentary format, opening with an express train from Stockholm, Sweden, pulling into the Copenhagen station. On the platform are pianist Harold Goldberg, bassist Benny Nielsen and drummer Alex Riel.

Emerging from the train is Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gulin, who interestingly is without his horn. In the station, they meet up with Gordon. Outside, they greet saxophonist and flutist Sahib Shihab, who moved to Copenhagen a year earlier.

Then, everyone except Gordon pile into a car for a drive to what one assumes is a bar and then dinner before the gig. Meanwhile, Gordon waits for a chic woman to show up, who I'm guessing is Lotte Nielsen, with whom he was living in Copenhagen at the time. They window shop and then Gordon has to leave.

The music that follows backed by candids of young Danes and footage of Copenhagen's stores and neon at night are wonderful. For me, Gordon was at his playing peak in 1962. Here's “On the Spot: Jazz in Copenhagen," with a performance of Cole Porter's I Love You... 

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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