For most fans of hard bop the fact that this disc presents previously unreleased Dexter Gordon of late 60s vintage will alone be sufficient impetus to make the remainder of this review superfluous. Discovery of vault tapes is always cause for celebration and this set, recorded on the occasion of one of Long Tall Dex’s (source of the titular acronym) intermittent returns to the States during his expatriate phase in Paris, makes good on the promise of its pedigree. Fronting a tight, supportively swinging rhythm section of Timmons, Gaskin and the comparatively obscure Brice, the saxophonist settles into what he does best, long-form effusive blowing on a trio of standards and a sole original.
The illusion that extended improvisations were largely the province of the Avant-Garde players is completely shattered on these four numbers as Gordon illustrates vividly his ability to breeze through double-digit choruses without compromising melodic ingenuity or focus. Larry Hollis’ picturesque liners paint a detailed synopsis of what’s going on musically with plenty of superlatives scattered throughout to keep his analysis from sounding too academic. Suffice it to say that Gordon blows the hell out of each tune, particularly the closing run down of the Ammons/Stitt tenor classic “Blues Up and Down” where the saxophonist charges through a smile-inducing forty (by Hollis’ count) consecutive verses. Timmons and Gaskin are the other soloists, but each willingingly takes a passenger seat recognizing Dex as the designated driver. Brice keeps solid and creative time throwing in the appropriate press roll, accent or break to keep the rhythmic end bustling.
The recording passes muster fidelity-wise and Gordon is particularly well miked. Timmons and Gaskin are less forward in the mix, but fortunately the audibility of their respective solos doesn’t suffer from the difference. While there isn’t anything truly unexpected in these performances the chance to hear Gordon piloting a solid quartet in prime form with the freedom to truly stretch out is one that listener’s harboring a love for hotly rendered small combo jazz should not pass up.
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Personnel: Dexter Gordon- tenor saxophone; Bobby Timmons- piano; Victor Gaskin- bass; Percy Brice- drums. Recorded: May 4, 1969, Baltimore, MD.