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Dexter Gordon: Gettin' Around

Chris May By

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An arterial link between Lester Young and the hard bop tenor saxophonists of the late '50s and early '60s, Dexter Gordon's brilliance and significance are today remembered mostly as an afterthought. Partly this is Gordon's own fault: after his prolific vanguard activities of the '40s, the '50s were for him a wasteland of heroin addiction, with few recording sessions or landmark live appearances. He's off the page of most jazz chronicles from the period.

Happily, though, Gordon's most on-fire recordings survive. Gettin' Around was made during his unexpected and magnificent renaissance on Blue Note in the mid '60s. Its inclusion in the Rudy Van Gelder remaster programme is great news for anyone who enjoys the eternal verities of American jazz—and who relishes in particular the tenor saxophonist as unruly sonic gunslinger.

Gordon's playing was an extension of his six and a half foot stature. His sound was big, his notes were big, and his lyricism was rough-hewn. His influences were one part Young and one part Charlie Parker. From Parker he took a hard and deliberate tone, vibrato-less except in the most intimate moments, and from Young he took a horizontal approach to improvisation, though gruffer and more bass register-rooted. Drop all that into the studio along with the rhythm section that helped make Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder as bad-ass as it was, stir in rising vibraphone star Bobby Hutcherson, and you have real voodou.

Most of the album is mid to up-tempo, hot, broad, careless, exuberant, and vigorously swinging. The pieces range from the wittily codified bossa nova "Manha De Carnaval" to the booting romps "Heartaches" and "Shiny Stockings" and the ten-minute blues jam "Flick Of A Trick." Gordon's only original, the pretty and balletic "Le Coiffeur," is clearly influenced by French chanson—by the time this album was recorded, Gordon had been resident in Europe for three years—but the only real ballad is "Who Can I Turn To" (check the vibrato-as-foreplay). The leader takes most of the solo space, but Harris and Hutcherson each get chances to shine. Harris' solo on "Le Coiffeur" is lovely, as are Hutcherson's pre-Leary but trippy sonics on "Flick Of A Trick."

Along with '63's Our Man In Paris and the original '61 comeback album Doin' Alright, this is one of three immortal works in the Gordon canon.


Track Listing: Manha De Carnaval; Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me); Heartaches; Shiny Stockings; Everybody's Somebody's Fool; Le Coiffeur; Very Saxily Yours; Flick Of A Trick.

Personnel: Dexter Gordon: tenor saxophone; Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone; Barry Harris: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Billy Higgins: drums.

Title: Gettin' Around | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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