Monday, July 16, 2018

Dexter Gordon - Tokyo 1975 (Elemental Music, 2018)

Recorded in Tokyo during October of 1975, during the great tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon's first ever appearance in Japan, this is a great live album where he has a talented band featuring Kenny Drew on piano, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass, and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums. They open with "Fried Bananas" which is an upbeat and swinging tune that has bright rhythmic accompaniment to Gordon's strong and vibrant saxophone. This elastic sounding bass powers the improvisation, giving the leader plenty of room to stretch out and treat the crowd to a very impressive solo, playing in a fast paced and exciting manner. Gordon lays out and the rhythm section takes over, demonstrating sparkling interplay until he re-enters, trading witty passages with Heath in the end. "Days of Wine and Roses" is taken at a medium tempo with Gordon's steely toned tenor saxophone cutting through the rhythm trio, who give him plenty of room to dig in and really blow. The piano, bass and drums unit are featured, leading into an excellent bass solo and strong full band finish. "Misty" is a well known standard, and this ballad is tailor made for Gordon's gorgeous approach to songs with a slower tempo. He plays with patience and great lyricism, bathing the band and audience with his luxuriant sound. The sound opens up for a trio interlude led by lush and romantic piano, before Gordon returns to corral everyone, closing the performance with a stoically beautiful finishing statement. He shows no ill effects of travel on the riotous "Jelly, Jelly, Jelly" as he sings the lyrics amidst the audience's enthusiastic hand claps, and taking the populist approach with a fresh as paint saxophone solo, bringing the fun of jazz to all assembled, even quoting Nat Adderley's "Work Song" and hamming it up in the best way possible by scatting the blues. If this seems a little frivolous (it's not) the following track is Gordon at his most powerful, deconstructing Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm a Ning" over the course of fourteen minutes. He carves up the tricky theme with scientific precision, pushing hard through a complicated improvisation and producing a thrilling solo statement, relentlessly pouring out emotionally charged waves of sound. He is deeply engaged with Heath on this performance, and the two veterans push and pull at the fabric of the song, trading quick and inventive bursts to bring the amazing performance home safely. After that bracing jolt, Gordon ends the concert on a magnanimous note, with the standard "Old Folks" where he recites the lyrics to the crowd and then takes a beautifully patient and sultry solo supported by ripples of piano and subtle bass and drums. His melodic and thoughtful playing on this track encapsulates this excellent album, as well as his titanic stature within the history of jazz. Tokyo 1975 - amazon.com

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