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Dexter Gordon Quartet: Espace Cardin 1977

Karl Ackermann By

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Dexter Gordon left us almost three decades ago, but his presence in 2018 has virtually brought him back to center stage. The release of his biography Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (University of California Press) by his wife Maxine Gordon, and the previously unreleased Dexter Gordon Quartet Tokyo 1975 (Elemental Music) have revitalized interest in one of the most influential early leaders of the bebop movement. Elemental follows up the Tokyo concert release with Espace Cardin 1977, recorded live in Paris and, like the Tokyo concert, unreleased prior to this pressing.

To say that Gordon was highly—and broadly—accomplished is an understatement. He was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award in 1986 for his part in 'Round Midnight; he appeared in the movie Awakenings (1990) and in an acting role on a television series. Gordon won a Grammy for The Other Side of 'Round Midnight (Blue Note Records, 1986) and the National Endowment for the Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement. He recorded more than seventy-five albums as a leader/co-leader and appeared as a sideman with Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock and many others.

The personnel in Gordon's quartet on Espace Cardin 1977 are no less intriguing. Al Haig was a member Miles Davis' nonet on the first session of Birth of the Cool (Capitol Records, 1957). Those session were recorded in 1949 and 1950 and for much of the next two decades, Haig disappeared into the New York piano lounge scene. In 1969 Haig was charged and acquitted in the murder of his third wife but spent the rest of his life dodging accusations of violent behavior. In 1974 he toured Europe, reviving his career and developing a significant following in Europe. He went on to record a prolific sixteen albums as a leader through the end of that decade.

Pierre Michelot was a French bassist known best for bebop and hard bop and played with many American greats including Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He appeared with Davis on the Louis Malle soundtrack Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Polygram Records, 1990). Drummer Kenny Clarke, a Pittsburg native, moved to Paris in 1956. Like Michelot, he played on Davis' Ascenseur pour l'échafaud as well as working with Bud Powell, Gillespie and Getz. He led a big band of top European and émigré American musicians from 1966 until 1972.

The music on Espace Cardin 1977 includes three Gordon originals and three very familiar standards, each presented as extended pieces. "Sticky Wicket" had appeared on Gordon's Swiss Nights, Vol. 2 (SteepleChase, 1988), an album that was originally released in 1975. Energized as the original is, it is easy to hear the unique difference Haig makes in comparison to Kenny Drew who played piano on the 1975 version. "A La Modal" originally from Biting the Apple (SteepleChase, 1977) provides plenty of time for solos and, as on the previous tune, Michelot's bass really shines in those instances. "Body and Soul" and Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" are infused with smart, individual ideas and nuanced performances. The set closes with Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight" and surprisingly, without Gordon, as Haig manages to put his own stamp on the overly familiar classic.

The performances on Espace Cardin 1977 are hard-charging in the bebop tradition that Gordon kept fresh long after the style was in its prime. Gordon was largely forgotten in the U.S. during the fourteen years that he had lived in Paris and Copenhagen but it was in those same years that he was at his creative peak. Kudos to Elemental Music for issuing this historic collection in high quality LP and CD versions and including a twelve-page booklet with insights from Maxine Gordon.

Track Listing: Sticky Wicket; A La Modal; Body and Soul; Antabus; Oleo; ‘Round Midnight.

Personnel: Dexter Gordon: tenor saxophone; Al Haig: piano; Pierre Michelot: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums.

Title: Espace Cardin 1977 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Elemental Music

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