200

Dexter Gordon: A Musical Biography

By

Sign in to view read count
Dexter Gordon: A Musical Biography by Stan Britt
Da Capo Press (New York, 1989)

Although there's plenty of fascinating material in this show-biz biography of the great master of bebop tenor saxophone, it's so permeated with gush and hyperbole that it requires some tolerance to sift through it for Gordon's story. The details are there, though, from his upbringing in Los Angeles as the son of a physician who died when Gordon was 12, his mingling with other young or established musicians in the Central Avenue scene, work in the bands of Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, and various smaller groups in Los Angeles and then on 52nd Street in New York, addiction and incarceration, years in Copenhagen and a triumphant return to the US, illness and convalescence, and his extraordinary acting in the movie "Round Midnight." An analysis of Gordon's playing style, another of his recordings, and a lengthy discography complete the book.

Britt quotes Gordon and many other musicians throughout the book, enough to bring a strong sense of authenticity to the story. Is the breathless excitement of this treatment of Gordon's life an inevitable part of the biography of a jazz musician? Here's a sample, as Gordon returns to Los Angeles in 1946 after a year in New York: "Then, back to California, to recuperate as well as to forge the partnership with Wardell Gray. And more journeys up and down Central Avenue. Time, too, to reflect on the host of memories of the past year or so. So many magic moments to recall with pleasure. Perhaps none more exhilarating than the time spent in the company of a genius named Charlie Parker. Over thirty years after that unforgettable experience, Dexter Gordon was to offer his own summation of Bird and his profound contributions to jazz: 'Music! All music. The fluidity and the freedom of expression, musicially and emotionally, are still unbelievable. So, what's new?'" Perhaps this writing style, rooted in popular journalism, will appeal to others more than to this reviewer.

Includes bibliography, discography, index and photographs.

This review copyright (c) 1998 by Larry Koenigsberg.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read David Bowie: Behind the Curtain Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966 Book Reviews The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight" Book Reviews Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight
by Chuck Koton
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth" Book Reviews Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell's Angels and The Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day" Book Reviews Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell's Angels and...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 24, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.