Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dexter Gordon Quartet – Swiss Nights

   Dexter Gordon was undoubtedly one of the best saxophonists in whole jazz history. He was the one who had introduced tenor saxophone in early bebop style. Born in 1923 in Los Angeles, playing saxophone from 15 year of his life, he was starting in swing bands, his first great job he started as 17 years old. In 1940 for three years he became the member of saxophone section in Lionel Hampton Orchestra with Illinois Jacquet.  Later he was one of prominent artists of hard bop and mainstream jazz in 1970’s and 1980’s For his height he was sometimes called “Long Tall Dexter” or “Sophisticated Giant”, but his most significant nickname was Dexter “The Sound” Gordon. Actually his sound was legendary huge, deep and juicy, powerful with rich overtones but still enough clear to connect with his perfect articulation and lightness of his phrasing.
   Through the sixties Dexter Gordon was living in Paris and in Copenhagen. This time Europe was definitely better place for many jazzmen. Jazz was more appreciating by Europeans, who were seeing it as a new kind of artistic music and element of new lifestyle connected to existentialism and freedom ideas. Besides some European communities, especially in Scandinavian countries were building definitely more open society giving immigrants better space. Many American jazzmen fleeing from the racism and economic issues found in Europe perfect place for their work. Dexter Gordon was one of most famous. While playing alive in European Clubs he proved to be a fascinating stage personality and one of greatest artists playing jazz in international multicultural stage. He was active for almost half of the century but these years were the best period in his artistic history.

Dexter Gordon Quartet – Swiss Nights (1976)

   During the period he spent in Europe he was recording for Blue Note, Prestige and SteepleChase, publishing more than 30 albums. A kind of farewell and a summary of this period was series of three albums Swiss Nights published in years 1975 (vol. 1) in 1978 (vol. 2) and in 1979 (vol. 3). First volume was published in 1975 by SteepleChase in Denmark and Netherlands and in 1976 by Inner City Records in US. The first volume of the series is live recording made at The Zürich Jazz Festival ’75, August 23rd, 1975 signed as the Dexter Gordon Quartet formed with musicians Dexter Gordon played and recorded for years: pianist Kenny Drew who was also an American emigrant, and two great Danish musicians, double bass player Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and drummer Alex Riel. The program of Swiss Nights vol. 1 includes four pieces improvised in hard bop manner: Rollins’ Tenor Madness, Jobim’s Wave, Young’s You’ve Changed and Mancini’s Days of Wine and Roses. Dexter Gordon was at highest level of improvisational creativity.

Dexter Gordon Quartet – Wave (1975)

   Recorded during Zürich Jazz Festival Dexter Gordon’s improvisations are so perfect every one could be seen as a model construction. He is grading complications and tension of the choruses, differentiating them by intervallic leaps, rhythmic patterns and sound expressions, dynamics and articulations, submitting full spectrum of artistic means in balanced, consequent construction. In Wave this is especially true. Solos by Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen are corresponding with great solo by the leader as consecutive episodes with conclusive short solo by Gordon – these exposures are just phenomenal works of jazz masterity. Bassist sounds as clear as it was recorded today – recording engineer Helmuth Kolbe from Phonag Tonstudio did the great job. And it’s heard the level of understanding between artists is just magic.
   Sometimes one could think recording don’t need anything more but microphone, recorder, some vinyl and good quality pressing. Of course the quality of every element should be possibly best. This edition was published with this direction. Modest purple background with black and white photography. The same on next but 2nd volume with blue and 3rd volume with green background. No sleeve notes, just basic credits information and clear typography point this simple fact, there was no need of information about Dexter Gordon in 1976. He was already 36 years on jazz stage. One of jazz giants and it was not the matter of his stature. This recording was as good as it can be, and passing years showing its timeless qualities. Four stars without any hesitation.

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