Celebrating the Cool and Humor of Dexter Gordon

Feb 21, 2017

Abraham Burton, Maxine Gordon and WBGO Host Gary Walker

"Long Tall" Dexter Gordon is one of the best known and significant musicians on his instrument: he was one of the first tenor saxophonists to adopt the bebop style, and influenced players such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Gordon's widow and former manager-producer, Maxine Gordon, and saxophonist Abraham Burton join Morning Jazz host Gary Walker to discuss the man and his music.

Gordon had a dedication to the horn that was magnetic: he couldn't walk past the instrument without picking it up to play. But Gordon wasn't just a laser-focused musician. He was an avid reader and family man, who loved to watch Road Runner cartoons Saturday mornings. He brought his humor to the stage, often inserting musical quotes into his solos.

He had a calming nature as well. Gary Walker tells the story of Takin' Off, Herbie Hancock's first recording sessions for Blue Note. Hancock was scared, but Gordon brought a calm to the session and everyone was able to relax. Maxine Gordon says it changed the record and one of the tunes so familiar in the idiom: Hancock was going to take the famous "Watermelon Man" at a much faster tempo, but Dexter counted it off with a slow groove.

Listen above for the entire interview with Maxine Gordon and saxophonist Abraham Burton.

This Thursday through Sunday, Jazz at Lincoln Center presents "The Music of Dexter Gordon: A Celebration" on what would be Gordon's 94th birthday, with an all-star lineup that will play the music from his classic Homecoming and Sophisticated Giant albums as well as some of his iconic ballads.