Great Encounters: When Dexter Gordon played in Louis Armstrong’s band

April 2nd, 2019

.

.

 “Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time.  This story comes from Maxine Gordon’s biography of her late husband, Sophisticated Giant:  The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon.

 

.

___

.

.

..

 

.

 

Excerpted from .Sophisticated Giant:  The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon

by

Maxine Gordon

.

___

.

…..He was a born ambassador and he really was a beautiful, warm human being, just the way you hear him and see him on stage and on film. That was Louis. He was always the same, always a beautiful man.

…..I was working at the Club Alabam, which was a nightclub on Central Avenue with Lee Young (Lester’s younger brother) who was the leader of the band. Art Pepper was in the band. We had about six, seven men…Mingus was in the band too. This was a gig that was from eight to midnight. This is when they started having a curfew and everything closed at midnight. The after-hours joints would open up after the clubs closed. They were something like speakeasies. I was working out at a joint called Honey Murphy’s which was in deep Watts. We had Jesse Price, drummer out of Kansas City, with us. We had come up with Basie and the piano player was called Jack LaRue because he looked like the big movie star with the same name.

…..One night Louis’ manager came out and he heard me and then the next night Louis came out. I didn’t know he was there. After the set someone came over to me and said, “Son, say son, I really liked that sound you get.” I looked up and it was Louis. “Thank you, thank you very much.” It was a great honor. So that was the first night and then the next night, the manager came out and asked me if I’d like to join the band. By this time I felt that I had built on my foundation and I wanted to get back to New York so I joined the band and we did a couple of flicks in Hollywood. Atlantic City and Pillow to Post with Dorothy Dandridge and Ida Lupino. In those movies, they shot the scenes with Louis and the band and then when they showed the movies in the South, they would cut those scenes out.

…..Oh, that was a thrill. Every night. He had such a big, beautiful, fat, blaring sound, just ran right through you. And that was really the reason I joined the band, to play with him. To play with him every night. The band was a mediocre type band. He was playing the swing type arrangements from the ‘30’s…especially “Ain’t Misbehavin” and “I’m Confessin’.” The arrangements were just a showcase for him. But, he liked me and he always gave me a chance to blow. He featured me a lot.

…..All the memories and feeling – he was gorgeous, he really was. I knew he liked reefer and I brought several cans of some real Mexican moto down, tastes like the good earth, and took three drags, you, that’s all you need. So we left Hollywood, and went up the Coast to visit Frisco and Portland – we were doing theaters and we hadn’t got into the one-nighters, but this is on the West Coast so it’s a little different, but anyway whether it was the club date or the ballroom on every night, intermissions, I’d come out with my Mexican moto and he had a big paper bag full of, what do you call it, New Orleans Golden Leaf…So we’d trade off rounds of smoke and then after about a week or so I noticed that he didn’t bring out the Golden Leaf anymore. Another week or so goes by, so one night I said, “Pops, whatever happened to all that New Orleans Golden Leaf?” He said, “Shit, son, that’s like bringing a hamburger to a banquet.” So I mean, it was a great time in my life, with him.

…..Working with Louis was love, love, love…That was what it was all about. All love. He was just beautiful – always beautiful. It was just a gas being with him. He let me play all the time. He really dug me.

.

.

___

.

.

 

 

Excerpted from Sophisticated Giant:  The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, by Maxine Gordon

 

Used with permission of the Regents of the University of California, copyright 2018

.

___

.

Louis Armstrong sings “Ain’t Misbehavin'” from the movie Atlantic City.  Dexter Gordon is also in the film, and can be seen in the front row of the saxophone section (to the viewer’s left)

.

 

.

.

.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic.

Greetings from Portland!

Commentary and photographs concerning the protests taking place in the city in which I live.

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. 14 poets contribute to the first volume of collected poetry.

Poetry

photo by Russell duPont
The second volume of poetry reflecting this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season features the work of 23 poets

Short Fiction

photo FDR Presidential Library & Museum
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Publisher’s Notes

On taking a road trip during the time of COVID...

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin are featured

Interview

A now timely 2002 interview with Tim Madigan, author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. My hope when I produced this interview was that it would shed some light on this little-known brutal massacre, and help understand the pain and anger so entrenched in the American story. Eighteen years later, that remains my hope. .

Poetry

Michiel Hendryckx / CC BY-SA
"Chet Baker's Grave" is a poem by Freddington

Humor

painting of Louis Armstrong by Vakseen
In Dig Wayne's "Iconolast," Louis Armstrong is responsible for saving the lives of every man, woman and child on the ball bearing line at the Radio Flyer wagon factory...

Poetry

photo by John Vachon/Library of Congress
“Climate Change” — Ten poems in sequence by John Stupp

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
"Charles Ingham's Jazz Narratives" connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition's narratives are "Nat King Cole: The Shadow of the Word," "Slain in Cold Blood" and "Local 767: The Black Musicians’ Union"

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #140

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Although he had success as a bandleader in the 1930’s, he is best known for being manager of Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse (where Thelonious Monk was the pianist) during the birth of bebop. Who was he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive