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Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon (February 27, 1923 – April 25, 1990) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He was one of the first players of the instrument in the bebop idiom of musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell. Gordon's height was 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm), so he was also known as "Long Tall Dexter" and "Sophisticated Giant". His studio and performance career spanned over 40 years.

Gordon's sound was commonly characterized as being "large" and spacious and he had a tendency to play behind the beat. He was known for humorously inserting musical quotes into his solos, with sources as diverse as popular tunes like "Happy Birthday" to the operas of Wagner. This is not unusual in common-practice jazz improvisation, but Gordon did it frequently enough to make it a hallmark of his style. One of his major influences was Lester Young. Gordon, in turn, was an early influence on John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Rollins and Coltrane then influenced Gordon's playing as he explored hard bop and modal playing during the 1960s.

Gordon was known for his genial and humorous stage presence. He was an advocate of playing to communicate with the audience. One of his idiosyncratic rituals was to recite lyrics from each ballad before playing it.

A photograph by Herman Leonard of Gordon taking a smoke break at the Royal Roost in 1948 is one of the iconic images in jazz photography. Cigarettes were a recurring theme on covers of Gordon's albums.

Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the Bertrand Tavernier film Round Midnight (Warner Bros, 1986), and he won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist, for the soundtrack album The Other Side of Round Midnight (Blue Note Records, 1986). He also had a cameo role in the 1990 film Awakenings. In 2019, Gordon's album Go (Blue Note, 1962) was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Birth and Death Data: Born February 27th, 1923 (Los Angeles), Died April 25th, 1990 (Philadelphia)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1941 - 1952

Roles Represented in DAHR: tenor saxophone

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Decca 70100 10-in. 12/24/1941 Just for you Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70101 10-in. 12/24/1941 Southern echoes Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70102 10-in. 12/24/1941 My wish Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70103 10-in. 12/24/1941 Nola Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70771 10-in. 5/26/1942 Now I know Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70772 10-in. 5/26/1942 Half a love is better than none Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70773 10-in. 5/26/1942 Flying home Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 70774 10-in. 5/26/1942 In the bag Lionel Hampton Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 82473 2/2/1952 They raided the joint Helen Humes instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 82474 2/2/1952 Loud talkin' woman Helen Humes instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 82475 2/2/1952 Mean way of lovin' Helen Humes instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca 82476 2/2/1952 I cried for you Helen Humes instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca L 3500 10-in. 8/9/1944 Grooving Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca L 3501 10-in. 8/9/1944 Baby don't you cry Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  
Decca L 3502 10-in. 8/9/1944 Whatcha say? Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra instrumentalist, tenor saxophone  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Gordon, Dexter," accessed January 19, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/318410.

Gordon, Dexter. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/318410.

"Gordon, Dexter." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 19 January 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/318410

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