Dexter Gordon ‘Fried Bananas’ LP/CD (Gearbox) 4/5

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon made Europe his home as of 1962, largely in order to kick his drug habit, and by 1972, the date of this live recording at Heemskerk Sociëteit Progress, Holland, had made Copenhagen his home. Although brief in time at just over thirty-five minutes, this previously unreleased material features the tenorist with an all-Dutch rhythm section comprising Rein de Graff on piano, Henk Haverhoek on double bass and Eric Ineke on drums. It covers, material wise, at least some of the territory of Gordon’s majestic 1970 LP for Prestige, ‘The Panther’. On that studio album with an all-star American cast, Gordon’s interpretation of the ballad, ‘Body and Soul’, was just one of the highlights. Here, it is reworked as a leisurely seven and a half minute mid-tempo outing, with a beautiful modal beginning on the motif, and this alternative reading breathes new life and meaning into the old chestnut. Not as compelling as the studio version, ‘The Panther’, like the other numbers showcased here, is introduced by Dexter himself in his own inimitable fashion and is simply one of this writer’s favourite Dexter Gordon compositions. With a largely supportive pianist and attractive bass line, Gordon effortlessly weaves his way around the theme with the sweetest of tenor voices and is in fine form. Rounding off the album is another self-penned composition, ‘Fried Bananas’, and this is a driving, fourteen and a half minute version of the Gordon opus.

In general the sound quality is excellent, even if the piano is a tad distant on ‘The Panther’. A pity there is not more documentary evidence of the concert itself. Informative sleeve notes include interviews conducted in Amsterdam with some of the band members still alive.

Tim Stenhouse