Thinking of Dexter Gordon

Saxophonist Dexter Gordon is one of the first names I mention to young students looking to get hip to the sounds of jazz.  Unmistakable for his saxophone sound and rhythmic feel, Dexter’s playing remains easily identifiable among legions of followers and imitators.  I learned a number of standards from his recorded renditions, including It’s You Or No One, Love For Sale, The Shadow of Your Smile, You Stepped Out of a Dream, and Star Eyes.

Dexter showing good posture and proper embrouchure

Dexter showing good posture and proper embrouchure

While Dexter became known to a mainstream audience late in his career due to his leading role in the movie ‘Round Midnight for which he was nominated as best actor for the 1986 Oscars, he has always been known to jazz fans for his use of riffs and quotes in his solos.  Wanting to find a better understanding of where that vocabulary came from, I’ve started listening to some of his older tracks, mainly from the disc ‘Dexter Rides Again‘, his first album as bandleader.

Once Dexter got a recording contract from Blue Note Records, he recorded very few original tunes.  On ‘Dexter Rides Again’ however, ten of the eleven tracks were penned by Gordon himself.  Listening to the heads of a few of these tunes gives the listener an idea of how his compositions reflected his riff-based playing.

Settin’ the Pace, Pts. 1 & 2 –  similar to a rhythm changes (Leo Parker on bari)

[audio:http://www.evancobbjazz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/2-settin-the-pace-pts.mp3]

Blow Mr. Dexter – an unfortunately titled blues

[audio:http://www.evancobbjazz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/9-blow-mr.mp3]

Dexter Rides Again – an original tune and the title track

[audio:http://www.evancobbjazz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/5-dexter-rides-again.mp3]

It’s also worth noting how much you can hear Lester Young’s direct influence on Dexter’s playing in 1945.  In fact, if you check out the Verve album ‘Lester Young Trio‘ released in 1994, you’ll find four Dexter Gordon tracks recorded in 1943 at the end of the disc.

At the Cobb’s Mob! gig last weekend here in Nashville, we played a Dexter Gordon tune penned in similar fashion.  Here’s our version and my solo:

The Chase – recorded 6.7.09 at Cafe CoCo

[audio:http://www.evancobbjazz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/the-chase-6709-solo-edit.mp3]

How has Dexter Gordon influenced you?

– evan


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