Dexter Gordon: Doin' Allright
Senior Contributor since 1997Jim Santella has been contributing CD reviews, concert reviews and DVD reviews to AAJ since 1997. His work has also appeared in Southland Blues, The L.A. Jazz Scene, and Cadence Magazine.
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Dexter Gordon played smooth jazz before that description took on a whole new meaning. Coming up from the Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins tradition, and playing an active role in the start of bebop, Gordon spent a long, albeit interrupted, career keeping his popular tenor saxophone voice before the jazz public. In May of 1961, when this session took place, Freddie Hubbard had recently signed with Blue Note and had just begun his stay with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
This session presents Dexter Gordon on the left channel and Freddie Hubbard on the right; they're backed by the Horace Parlan trio, including bassist George Tucker and drummer Al Harewood. As with other recent reissues, this one includes a few alternate takes. Both takes of "For Regulars Only" are presented, and "I Want More" is included, although it was not on the original release; in fact, it is an alternate take of the "I Want More" that was a part of Gordon's next LP album, "Dexter Calling." The two takes of "For Regulars Only" are so similar that you have to wonder why the alternate was included at all.
Both "For Regulars Only" and "Society Red" were introduced on this recording and later used in the film "Round Midnight," so each has gained additional popular recognition. At the start of "Society Red" Hubbard waits until mid-solo to approach the melody, which he takes up an octave, and provides more of his youthful, bold and brassy approach to hard bop. He and Gordon work as a duo throughout and Hubbard shows fine form with each solo outing.
Gordon's tenor voice is an example of his better work, with each solo dwelling on the melody more so than for most jazz artists, and gradually building through variations that keep the listener involved. Gershwin's "I Was Doing All Right," the title tune, uses a drum-stick-on-ride-cymbal effect to create a mood that introduces Gordon's solo; his full tone, appreciation for the melody, playful inclusion of familiar quotes, and lengthy delivery fulfill all the promises. In contrast, his work on the up-tempo "It's You Or No One" moves into the hard bop vein with exciting delivery, showing the other, hotter side of Dexter Gordon.