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Dexter Gordon: The Squirrel

Joel Roberts By

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This never-before-released live recording, taped by Danish radio during an engagement by Gordon and his quartet at Copenhagen's Jazzhaus Montmartre in the summer of 1967, captures the great tenor saxophonist at his most boisterous mid-60s peak. To hear Dexter Gordon live in this period is to hear one of the most powerful instrumentalists in jazz at the very top of his form.

On four extended numbers, clocking in at between twelve and twenty minutes, Gordon plays fast, furious and remarkably athletic tenor alongside an outstanding rhythm section of pianist Kenny Drew, Danish bassist Bo Stief, and drummer Art Taylor. The selections include three up-tempo bebop workouts - Tadd Dameron's title cut, Gordon's familiar "Cheese Cake," and Gordon disciple Sonny Rollins' "Sonnymoon for Two" - plus one standard, the ballad "You've Changed." The group's formula here is not complicated: Gordon briefly states each song's theme and then roars off into a six or seven minute solo, before stepping aside for a shorter solo by the always engaging Drew or the incendiary drummer Taylor.

This album is almost as much a showcase for Taylor's powerhouse drumming as it is for Gordon. While Taylor's incredible energy and volume, which recall another great Art of the drums, at times threaten to overwhelm the rest of the rhythm section, Dexter seems enervated by the drummer's aggressiveness and responds with some of his most energetic playing.

An additional highlight of this enormously enjoyable album is the brief spoken introduction Gordon provides for each number. Even speaking just a few words in his resonant baritone, Gordon's musicality and gracefulness shine through.

Title: The Squirrel | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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