PRINT May 1997


Dexter Gordon

On six discs that sound exactly right, Blue Note has reissued all of DEXTER GORDON’s original sessions with the label, recorded between 1961 and 1965. Blue Note’s distinctive hard-bop sound, a melodic mix of down-tempo bebop, gospel, and blues, became so popular it got to be synonymous with jazz. Especially in the hands of Gordon—a tenorman who knew his way around a song like few other players before or since. You listen to a cut like “Willow Weep for Me,” on disc four, and it’s as though he had simply figured out how it was meant to be played all along.

Smooth and fluid, but never reluctant to take it out, either, Gordon’s sax, and his way with a melody, would always carry him out of the valleys of a career that was (due to drugs and booze and the vagaries of taste) an up and down affair. Musically, the peaks were mostly here, on these Blue Note recordings. Two sessions in particular stand out: “Go” and “A Swingin’ Affair” (both 1962). Featuring cuts like “Love for Sale” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” they’re classic Gordon, and classic Blue Note, too—a paradigm of cool left behind for others to follow.

Mark Van de Walle