Personalities | Dexter Gordon | Forties | Jazz & Blues

(Tenor and soprano saxophone, 1923–90)

Dexter Gordon is widely credited as the leading figure in the evolution of bebop on his instrument, the tenor saxophone. The Los Angeles native was influenced initially by stars of the swing era, in particular Lester Young, and went on to adapt many of Charlie Parker’s alto saxophone innovations to the tenor. He was a notable exponent of the so-called ‘chase’ form, in which two tenors ‘duel’ for supremacy; he recorded a famous example with Wardell Gray as ‘The Chase’ (1947) and was also an inspired interpreter of ballads.

His career took a disastrous drug-induced dip in the 1950s, but he relocated to Europe and returned to music with renewed vigour in the 1960s, in a series of acclaimed recordings for Blue Note Records. He made a triumphal return to America in 1977, and went on to star in Bertrand Tavernier’s film Round Midnight (1986).

Styles & Forms | Forties | Jazz & Blues
Personalities | Wardell Gray | Forties | Jazz & Blues

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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