Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dexter Gordon - Our Man In Paris (Blue Note, 1963)

When I bought this disc many years ago, the music manager of the now defunct Borders in Colonie, NY told me a story that for this record date Gordon had brought a number of complicated originals to the studio. Pianist Bud Powell was having none of it however, and in the end the album focused on well known popular and jazz standards. Whether this story was apocryphal or not, it was a wise decision. Gordon and Powell, along with Pierre Michelot on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums dig into the music and what results is one of Gordon’s finest albums. Gordon’s tone on the tenor saxophone is chiseled in granite and immediately recognizable, as is his penchant for weaving wry quotes from other songs into his solos. A couple of bebop chestnuts anchor the album, “Scrapple From The Apple” and “A Night in Tunisia” are played with tremendous facility by the band. Powell is lucid and playing with a lightning fast touch and Clarke drives from the rear relentlessly. But its Gordon’s show, and he spools out long ribbons of improvisation that are a joy to behold. Gordon was always a masterful ballad player and “Stairway to the Stars” presents him in full narrative mode, telling the story of the song through his instrument. Dexter Gordon made wonderful music throughout his long life, but his relatively short tenure in Blue Note in the early to mid 1960’s has always been a favorite period of his for me. As this excellent album shows, he was at the peak of his playing power and accompanied by talented colleagues at every step. Our Man in Paris - amazon.com

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