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Dexter Gordon: Bopland

Ken Franckling By

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Despite its mixed sonic quality, Bopland is a historic three-CD treasure. It contains as much as could be gleaned from surviving acetates of a July 6, 1947 jazz summit featuring some of the West Coast's finest emerging musicians at the time. It was a mere two to three years after Charlie Parker and his collaborators began changing the face of modern jazz, principally in New York.

This evening concert at the Elks Club in L.A.—billed as an evening for dancers as much as pure listeners—featured four different combinations of players. Among the featured soloists were saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, and Sonny Criss; trumpeters Howard McGhee and Al Killian; trombonist Trummy Young, guitarist Barney Kessel, and teenage pianist Hampton Hawes.

Gordon's extended solo showcase on "Cherokee" (called "Geronimo" here) and "Bop After Hours" are among the highlights. A 20-minute version of "Perdido" (featuring veteran tenor players Bill Moore and Gene Montgomery) seemed to get the wildest crowd response that night. It pales in musical comparison to an 18-minute version of "The Hunt" that was primarily an extended tenor sax battle between the younger Gordon and Gray.

The latter tune soon surfaced in an eight-part series of 78 rpm recordings on producer Ralph Bass' Bop! Records. The inventiveness and ideas make the music fresh and interesting, even 57 years later. And it makes me wonder if they were recordings that caught the ear of Ellington tenor great Paul Gonsalves. The raw energy of those solos predated his historic one-man, 27-chorus tenor "battle" at Newport in 1956.

Track Listing: Disc 1 - 1. Tune up/Announcement (2:44) 2. Bopera (aka Disorder at the Border) (19:18) 3. What Is This Thing Called Love? (13:35) 4. Body and Soul (1:31) 5. Back Breaker (16:22). Disc 2 - 1. Tune up/Announcement (2:09) 2. Bopland (19:07) 3. Bop After Hours (18:28) 4. The Hunt (12:08). Disc 3 - 1. Perdido (20:21) 2. Merry Go Round Blues (0:12) 3. Blowin' With Bass (5:04) 4. Blow, Blow, Blow (14:00) 5. Geronimo (Cherokee) (21:21) 6. Unknown Theme take 1 (0:51) 7. Unknown Theme take 2 (0:53).

Personnel: (Howard McGhee Orchestra, Bill Moore Orchestra, Al Killian Orchestra and The Bopland Boys featuring combinations of Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Wild Bill Moore, Gene Montgomery, tenor saxophone; Sonny Criss, alto saxophone Al Killian, Howard McGhee, trumpet; Trummy Young, trombone; Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, guitar; Russ Freeman, piano; Red Callender, Harry Babasin, Shifty Henry, bass; Roy Porter, Tim Kennedy, Leroy Gray, drums; Earl Coleman, vocals (4).

Title: Bopland | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Savoy Jazz

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