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Dexter Gordon Quartet: Tokyo 1975

C. Michael Bailey By

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Elemental Music is a record label that can be uttered in the same breath with Omnivore Records and Resonance Records. These labels can be credited with significant additions to the universal jazz catalog. Near recent examples of unreleased performances put out by Elemental Music include: Art Pepper Live At Fat Tuesday's (2015) and Red Garland's Swingin' On The Korner: Live At Keystone Korner (2015), as well as Jimmy Giuffre: New York Concerts (2014).

Elemental Music has since found some previously unreleased performances of Dexter Gordon recorded in Tokyo in 1975, a year prior to the saxophonist's repatriation to the United States after a 14-year residence in Europe, mostly in Paris and Copenhagen. This particular disc contains four performances from the Yubin Chonkin Hall in Tokyo on October 1, 1975. The remaining two selections, Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" and "Old Folks," were performed in De Boerenhofstee July 18, 1973 and New Haven Conn, May 5, 1977, respectively, with different rhythm sections. The Tokyo performance falls between two recording dates that resulted in Dexter Gordon -The 1975 SteepleChase Artist. Gordon's return to the United States, marked by his recording Homecoming (Columbia, 1976) captured December 11-12, 1975 at the Village Vanguard in New York City. This was an edgy, progressive date that featured trumpeter Woody Shaw.

In comparison, Dexter Gordon Quartet—Tokyo 1975 is a sedate and straight-forward date. The recital begins with the Gordon original "Fried Bananas," a composition long in the Gordon songbook. He provides a lengthy workout and allows bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, who performs at the highest level possible. His rhythmic, center-of-the-tone approach and his acute precision add an additional, almost clinical, level to the recording. Ørsted Pedersen's immediate impact can be heard after the head release into Gordon's first solo, when pianist Kenny Drew drops out and Gordon plays trio. Virile and muscular, Ørsted Pedersen wills the beat. Gordon solos well within the lines, proving he is well ensconced at the height of his powers. "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Misty" are dispatched well. The surprise is a performance of Billy Eckstine's "Jelly, Jelly Jelly." Gordon sings as well as blows the blues with gusto and grace. Thelonious Monk "Rhythm-a-Ning," from the Laren show demonstrates why this song was so long in Gordon's playbook. Again playing as a trio, this time with Ørsted Pedersen and drummer Espen Rud, Gordon stretches out, giving a lengthy performance. "Old Folks" from the New Haven show is reedy and organic, the sonics not as good as the Tokyo performances, but nevertheless showing Gordon's command of the ballad. Dexter Gordon Quartet—Tokyo 1975 proves an admirable addition to the Gordon discography

Track Listing: Fried Bananas; Days of Wine and Roses; Misty; Jelly, Jelly, Jelly; Rhythm-a-Ning; Old Folks.

Personnel: Dexter Gordon: tenor saxophone; Kenny Drew: piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen; Albert “Tootie” Heath: drums; Espen Rudd: drums (5); Ronnie Matthews: piano (6); Stafford James: bass (6); Louis Hayes: drums (6).

Title: Tokyo 1975 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Elemental Music

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