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Dexter Rides Again

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Album Review

Taken from three separate sessions from 1945-'47, Dexter Rides Again showcases prime bebop sides Gordon cut for Savoy. His unique adaptation of Charlie Parker's alto conception to the tenor saxophone is displayed throughout, revealing a mix of fluid, hard-toned lines and a vibrato-heavy and vaporous ballad sound. And while Gordon's ballad mastery would come to the fore on his come-back albums for Blue Note in the '60s, the tenor saxophonist primarily sticks to up-tempo material here, a standard for most bebop sets. Abetted by a collective cast including the fine, yet rarely heard trumpeter Leonard Hawkins, baritone saxophonist Leo Parker, pianists Tadd Dameron and Bud Powell, and drummers Max Roach and Art Blakey, Gordon is in top form on a typical collection of self-penned, utility tunes, dispensing of involved head statements in favor of solo space. Standouts include "Dexter's Deck," the lone ballad "I Can't Escape From You," and the jam session number "Settin' The Pace" (Gordon recorded many extended cuts like this with fellow bebop tenor star Wardell Gray, and here teams up with Leo Parker for something like a baritone and tenor cutting contest). For those interested in where elements of both Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane's distinct style came from, check out these fine Gordon sides; besides the history lesson on wax, there's a consistent run of top-notch bebop sides to enjoy. For completists, these tracks, plus alternate takes and an excellent session featuring Fats Navarro, are included on Denon's Savoy reissue package, Settin' the Pace.


Born: February 27, 1923 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Dexter Gordon had such a colorful and eventful life (with three separate comebacks) that his story would make a great Hollywood movie. The top tenor saxophonist to emerge during the bop era and possessor of his own distinctive sound, Gordon sometimes was long-winded and quoted excessively from other songs, but he created a large body of superior work and could battle nearly anyone successfully at a jam session. His first important gig was with Lionel Hampton (1940-1943) although, due to Illinois...
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