Consisting of four cuts spread out over a 62 minute running time, Dexter Gordon’sL.T.D.
is not for listeners with short attention spans. Within the trappings of a mundane blowing session, there is a lot going on during these previously unreleased tracks recorded live in May 1969 at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore. Gordon is in an expansive mood, taking multiple choruses on medium tempo versions of “Broadway,” and his own “Boston Bernie,” based on the changes of Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are.” With the empathetic support of pianist Bobby Timmons, bassist Victor Gaskin, and drummer Percy Brice, the tenor saxophonist, who had spent most of the 60s living and playing in Europe, sounds relaxed and allows his imagination free rein. Throughout both of these cuts, however, it is Gordon’s ability to sustain an extended improvisation within an overall architecture that is most impressive. Song quotes are integrated into bebop phrasing that never sounds frantic, and choice R & B licks are seamlessly woven into the mix.
In addition to Gordon’s impressive offerings, the success of the record also belongs to Timmons, who establishes a strong presence during lengthy solos, exhibiting the same sense of structure and playing straight-ahead in a lively, no nonsense manner that belies his reputation as a mere soul-jazz pianist. He frequently threatens to steal the show with clipped, tumbling right hand lines, and then goes in another direction by breaking into blues-based passages that draw a vocal response from the audience.
The only track on the record under ten minutes, Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” brings out the romantic side of both Gordon and Timmons. The tenor saxophonist’s lines gently float through the air like cigarette smoke, yet he still sounds purposeful, especially during the composition’s bridge when he confidently strides forward without altering the music’s tender spirit. Timmons is alternately sprightly and somber, making leaps with clusters of notes then settling in and playing thoughtful variations of the tune.
The recording’s tour-de-force is an ecstatic, up-tempo version of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt’s “Blues Up And Down.” During the course of 40 choruses, Gordon pulls out all of the stops, relying on the rhythm section to assist him with the right accents on the brief, riff-like interludes that hold his improvisation together. Supported by Gaskin’s steady walking and the clanging pulse of Brice’s ride cymbal, Timmons adroitly mixes stormy, right handed flights with grounded, repetitive patterns executed with both hands. After Gaskin’s bowed solo, Gordon comes back and takes two more choruses before alternating them with Brice’s jittery drumming.