Dexter Gordon ‘Best of’ 3CD (Blue Note France) 4/5

In his early twenties Dexter Gordon was one of the most promising tenor saxophonists alongside Wardell Gray and Teddy Edwards on the West coast jazz scene. However, his much heralded first albums gave way to a serious drug addiction during the early to mid 1950s and by the time he had sorted himself out he was hitting the big 40. This is where the collaboration with Blue Note begins and it was a new mature sounding Gordon that emerged to execute a series of immaculate albums for the label. These vary in format from the classic quartet to quintet including trumpet and even quintet with vibes. Six key albums released at the time are previewed alongside two later issues and all cover the period 1961-1965. Most of the favourites are here such as ‘Love for Sale’ and ‘Cheesecake’ from the seminal ‘Go’, the Latinesque hues of ‘Soy Califa’ from ‘Swingin’ Affair’ and even the summery sound of ‘Le Coiffeur’ from ‘Gettin’ Around’. Gordon recorded two albums in Europe for Blue Note and from ‘Our Man in Paris’, ‘Night in Tunisia’ features Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke in an all-star cast. None of the sessions from the film ‘Round Midnight’ in which Gordon starred and earned a grammy nomination are featured, nor are the live sessions from the mid-1960s that Blue Note Denmark issued. A 1965 date with Freddie Hubbard, ‘Clubhouse’ is showcased. The timing overall is generous with even an eighteen minute plus track included in the digipak format. Bizarrely the inner sleeve features Roland Kirk who plays no part in proceedings. Recording dates are indicated, but no notes. This compliation serves as an excellent introduction to the craft of one of jazz’s greatest exponent of the tenor saxophone.

Tim Stenhouse