On the Turntable — “Sophisticated Giant,” by Dexter Gordon

January 22nd, 2019

 

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I will soon be interviewing Ms. Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant:  The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, whose biography of her late husband is a creatively and beautifully told account of the essential mid-20th century saxophonist.

While preparing for the interview, I have been revisiting quite a bit of Dexter’s music (not especially tough duty).  An album I am particularly enjoying is the 1977 Columbia release Sophisticated Giant, which was recorded in New York a year following his permanent return to the United States.  Filled with gorgeous Slide Hampton arrangements and Dexter’s full, lush blowing, the album features Gordon alongside a few of the same artists who, six months later, would appear on Woody Shaw’s classic 1977 recording Rosewood, the consensus jazz record of the year in 1978.

In addition to Shaw on trumpet (Benny Bailey also plays trumpet on the album) Sophisticated Giant features Rosewood alumni the reed player Frank Wess and the drummer Victor Lewis, whose charismatic energy and crisp sound fills ears like few drummers from that era.  Unsurprisingly, given the quality of the personnel and Michael Cuscuna’s stellar production on both albums, they share a vivid, bright sound that is worth revisiting and savoring.   Dexter loved Giant, and, according to Ms. Gordon, “considered [it] among his best.”

You can hear it for yourself by clicking on the Youtube link below.  Meanwhile…If you are ready for a new book, I highly recommend Ms. Gordon’s …For information, click here.

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