This Dexter Gordon solo from the song “Loose Walk”, by Sonny Stitt, is part of a video called JAZZ ICONS: DEXTER GORDON LIVE IN ’63 & ’64. it features concert and studio footage from shows in Holland, Switzerland and Belgium. the first section, filmed in Holland with sidemen George Gruntz (pno), Guy Pedersen (Bs) and Daniel Humair (drms), opens with a scene of Gordon making his way down a dark avenue, dressed in a trench coat and hat. he steps into a jazz club, hands his things to the barman and makes his way to the stage where his band is already holding it down. grabbing his horn as the band finishes, he steps up to the mic and introduces the next song- i immediately notice the deep baritone voice and wonder if he’s going to burst into song or quote some Shakespeare. instead, after the quirkily cool chat up, he and the band dive into a nice version of “Night In Tunisia”. Gordon has a presence that is tangible. i wonder how he would have done as a (full time) movie actor, or a crooner- he has that type of aura. he stretches out nicely on “Tunisia”; the video is primarily a vehicle for Gordon, with the other musicians carrying a supporting role. he gets lots of blowing time and makes very good use of it. they play a nice version of “What’s New” and follow it up with “Loose Walk”.  Gordon alternates between orthodox bebop lines and riffing in an earthier blues style. he lays down a lot of nice ideas and at times i can hear why Coltrane cited him as a stylistic influence. i also hear some hints of Lester Young, one of his models. Gordon was such an awesome player. big, focused, instantly identifiable sound, fat pocket, inventive melodies and always swinging, with the blues ever close at hand. these elements are shown to great advantage on this video.  the same rhythm section is featured on “Lady Bird” and “Body And Soul”. Gordon plays with another unit (Kenny Drew, Gilbert Rovère and Art Taylor on piano, bass and drums) on two songs, “Second Balcony Jump” and “You’ve Changed”. the sample liner notes are below…

When the performances on this DVD were filmed in Europe in 1963 and 1964, Dexter Gordon was not on tour from the United States. He was living in Copenhagen, Denmark, working for months at a time at the Montmartre Jazz Club. At the time of the concert in Lugano, Switzerland, on September 20, 1963, Dexter was 40 years old and was referred to as an expatriate even though he never considered himself anything but a jazz musician living in Europe where he could find steady work and peace of mind. When he wasn’t working, he would often be seen riding around town on his bicycle. Though clearly attached to the United States —he made numerous trips back to visit his family—he considered Copenhagen his second home.

Dutch TV, Amersfoort, Holland
July 29, 1964
Dexter Gordon often used the rhythm section on this performance in Amersfoort, Holland, and on the last one on the DVD recorded January 8, 1964, in Brussels, Belgium, when he was on tour. Asked to recall these concerts, which took place more than 40 years ago, pianist George Gruntz replied, “this trio with Humair and myself went on tour so often with American jazz artists who came to visit and play in Paris and often from there we went on tour with them. We were the preferred rhythm section!” This was surely the case because they can be seen in many European TV appearances, including those with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Johnny Griffin and Donald Byrd.

The “preferred” drummer, Daniel Humair, when asked to recall the days with Dexter, commented: “Dexter was the perfect jazz musician because the music was always about purity and creation. He never played the role of the leader, he never dictated, because he knew that this would have a negative effect on the musicians and would cancel the purpose of the mutual adventure. As a drummer, he was one of the most pleasing soloists to be behind. We never had an argument and he was devoid of an ego. His attitude was respect of musicians to musicians.”

On this performance, Dexter plays “Second Balcony Jump”, which he had recorded in 1962 on the Blue Note album Go! The Billy Eckstine and Gerry Valentine composition certainly reminded him of those days that he considered his best, when he was playing in a band with Sarah Vaughan, Fats Navarro, Gene Ammons, Leo Parker and Art Blakey. He never tired of talking about the great Eckstine Band and all that he had learned from its musicians. He is also heard on the beautiful ballad, “You’ve Changed”, which he had recorded in 1961 on the Blue Note album, Doin’ Allright. He was certainly thinking about Billie Holiday when he played this tune. On both compositions, Dexter is able to stretch out and give plenty of solo space to his stellar sidemen.

Jazz Prisma (Brussels, Belgium)
January 8, 1964
The personnel on this performance is the same as that on the July 29, 1964, television recording in Amersfoort, Holland: George Gruntz, piano; Guy Pederson, bass; and Daniel Humair, drums.

The compositions played on this DVD were part of Dexter Gordon’s repertoire during this period when he was living in Europe. He played “Body and Soul”, “You’ve Changed”, “Second Balcony Jump”, “What’s New” and “Lady Bird” almost nightly—and re-worked them every time. (“Lady Bird” was written by Tadd Dameron. Called “the romanticist of the bebop movement” by Dexter, he also composed “If You Could See Me Now”, which became Sarah Vaughan’s first signature song.) The chance to hear and see these performances after listening to them on LPs and CDs makes us acutely aware of the ability of jazz musicians to interpret and re-interpret and then re-interpret again what we think of as a perfect performance.
When Dexter played “Body and Soul”, he often announced, “There comes a time in every tenor saxophonist’s life when he must play his rendition of ‘Body and Soul’. If it weren’t for Coleman Hawkins, where would we all be by now?” This composition is a fitting finale to this Jazz Icons DVD as it gives us Dexter Gordon as he was in 1964—not only as part of a very long line of tenor players whom he respected and listened to over and over again, but also as a modern tenor saxophonist listening to everything around him and using what he found beautiful and meaningful and leaving the rest aside.

—Maxine Gordon


23. June 2010 by james
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