Dexter Gordon On Unknown Sundays 2024


When it comes to accomplished Jazz musicians that have stood the test of time, and they come to immediate mind in the music multiverse, and people have their definitive album, their greatest hits, and podcasters and YouTuber’s always name them, discuss them, and triumphantly attempt to rank their importance or their albums.  All of this I always enjoy and tune in for, whether it’s video, podcast, or just social media banter.  These are the Ella Fitzgerald’s, Miles Davis’, Thelonious Monks’, Dizzy Gillespie’s, Miles Davis’, and John Coltrane’s of the world.  And of course, there’s Louie, Charlie, Billie, Duke and Benny, which just the mention of their first name leads to their last name for generations of music appreciators old and new.  All are worthy, and there are some I didn’t include in this brief list to prove my point, which is, Dexter Gordon On Unknown Sundays 2024.  The legend you may not truly know, and a catalog that you have to experience to be a jazz officianto, or if for some reason you think those mentioned above are all that matters.

The “Sophisticated Giant” tenor saxophonist at the height of 6′ 6″ was the complete, jazz composer and band leader in the early ages of Bebop among the legends Dizzy, Charlie, and Bud Powell (whom I didn’t mention above).  Dexter’s father, a graduate of Howard Medical School, was actually the physician for Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, which even back then was a fine who do you know  (or at least who your father knew).  In fact, on many occasions ‘The Big Man’ (Duke Ellington), would be over the house for dinner, and kids would line up at the window to get a glimpse of the famed musician.  Dexter’s talent for music, which started with the clarinet but turned to saxophone, was certainly the driving force of his recognition because before he actually recorded with Dizzy back in 1945, he was already in Louis Armstrong’s band, as well as Bill Eckstine’s, so he was definitely all-in, moving to New York City (following the music trail and immersing himself among the best).  Over his career, which is extensive, as a sideman and/or collaborator he has worked (besides those already mentioned) with Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole, George Benson, Art Blakely, and Tony Bennett, among many other legendary jazz musician session players.

Not only does he have accolades in the music industry, he is also the recipient of an Oscar for Round Midnight soundtracks with Herbie Hancock, as well as a Best Actor Nomination for his role as “Dale Turner.”  He was the first musician instrumentalist to receive an oscar nomination for acting.  The movie featured him as an expatriate jazz musician in Paris during the late 1950s based on Lester Young and Bud Powell, which also features the acting side of Martin Scorsese.  He would also be in Penny Marshall’s movie, Awakenings, as well as a guest appearance on Michael Mann’s crime drama, Crime Story.

Now that you have all that history and busy life of Dexter Gordon under your belt of interest, how is that the legendary John Coltrane is influenced by Dexter Gordon?  Let’s get back to those early years where it’s not truly about the album.  See the kids were playing their own heavy bebop and jazz at rehearsals, and some of those legends would come down to hear them.  Dizzy and Duke especially, and they were diggin’ what they were hearing.  This is the experience of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, three years or so his juniors.  So, the “Jazz Giant” is just pushing the saxophone into all kinds of jazz varietals, and John and Sonny were picking it up and laying it down.  And then, just a few years later, Miles, Sonny, and Coltrane started to shape Dexter’s jazz world, and the explosion of the jazz music multiverse became incredible!  And that’s kind of where, Dexter Gordon gets a little lost in the shuffle of the naming of the greats as time went on.  Dexter Gordon’s Go, is the essential, got-to-have, but the in actuality the live performances and collaborations of those earlier years and records are formative, creative and essentially special recordings that drove those that got the single names.

When I first started getting into Jazz, it was people dropping those names, that you had to experience.  And, while these names are very true.  We all know, in the music multiverse there are always gems, influencers, innovators, and stunning one-offs that can be extremely awesome memories in time that should be enjoyed — perhaps just as much.

The Dexter Gordon Albums In My Collection [that range from vinyl to compact disc]:
  • Dexter Rides Again (1958)
  • The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon (Jazzland, 1960)
  • Dexter Calling… (Blue Note, 1961)
  • Landslide (Blue Note, 1961–62 [1980])
  • Go! (Blue Note 1962)
  • Our Man in Paris (Blue Note, 1963, with Bud Powell, Pierre Michelot, Kenny Clarke)
  • Gettin’ Around (Blue Note 1965)
  • Wee Dot (SteepleChase, 2003 [1965])

I will leave you with a quote from the character, Dale Turner, in Round Midnight“You know, there’s been nights … when I’ve been working and playing, and at the end of the night, you know, I look at my mouthpiece … and it’s all bloody, but I haven’t felt a thing, you know. My life is music. My love is music. And it’s 24 hours a day.”   Mr. Gordon, who battled more than just the time table of musicianship, music eras, and wide variety of racial moments in history, was also a great stage presence, an ambassador of the arts, and a man who knew the struggles of addiction and the road to recovery.  His contribution to Bebop, Jazz, and the band arrangements will forever be a saxy piece of history.  Especially his keen sense of adding in little ditties of famous pieces into his playing!  It’s always great to find a Dexter Gordon record in a used bin, and then put it on and spot the little-cover-of anything from Peter Cottontail to Wagner’s opera(s).  Totally out of left field, and you have to be paying close attention because some of these are snuck in there seamlessly.

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