Dexter Gordon: Go! + A Swingin’ Affair

The saxophonist's deceptively languorous style is well evinced in a pairing of two of his Blue Note albums from 1962


As one of the foremost bebop tenor players, Dexter Gordon was well recorded prior to 1955 then, due to various reasons, there was nothing until Jazzland’s 1960 issue The Resurgence. Blue Note stepped in with the aptly named Doin’ Alright (1961) to start a fruitful period with a number of albums of consistently high standard. The pairing of the two here is appropriate as they were made in the same week in August 1962.

Gordon is in grand form with his distinctive tone which earlier had been such an influence on Rollins, Coltrane and others. Although changes had come to the music, his work here served as a consolidation of style and a maturation of his bop playing, demonstrating his forthright delivery and deceptively languorous phrasing. Never reluctant to throw in a quote, he often teeters on the precipice, not quite succumbing to further elaboration.

Certain tracks stand out – Cheese Cake, The Backbone and Soy Califa, in particular. On the ballads, his strength and tenderness are apparent as he brings a conversational element into the tunes, the lyrics effectively issuing from his horn. Not surprisingly, he metaphorically tips his pork-pie hat to Lester Young on Don’t Explain, co-written by Billie Holiday, waxing silky smooth.

Pianist Sonny Clark is featured often, taking good advantage of his opportunities to solo; this is typified by his lyrical approach on I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry and his inventiveness on Second Balcony Jump. Drummer Billy Higgins stretches out at the end of this and takes the helm as he steers Love For Sale, with its Latin-tinged time changes; similarly on You Stepped Out Of A Dream, with busy asides and adjuncts.

Like Higgins, bassist Butch Warren tends to have a supportive role, although he features on You Stepped Out, and his own composition The Backbone is a gem.

Soon after this Gordon moved across the water, basing himself in Copenhagen and Paris and entering the next stage of his career, well-documented on his SteepleChase recordings –  America’s loss was Europe’s gain.

Cheese Cake; I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry; Second Balcony Jump; Love For Sale; Where Are You?; Three O’Clock In The Morning; Soy Califa; Don’t Explain; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; The Backbone; Until The Real Thing Comes Along; McSplivens (76.12)
Gordon (ts); Sonny Clark (p); Butch Warren (b); Billy Higgins (d). New Jersey, August 1962.
Poll Winners Records 27313