The Complete Prestige Recordings

COMPOSERS: Dexter Gordon
LABELS: Prestige
PERFORMER: Dexter Gordon
CATALOGUE NO: 11PRCS-4442-2

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Hancock’s recorded debut as a leader featured an illustrious sideman, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, then enjoying the first of several career resurgences. Gordon emerged in the mid-1940s as an influential tenor saxophonist who synthesised Coleman Hawkins’s hefty tone, Lester Young’s melodic eloquence and Charlie Parker’s intricate flurries into a singular, instantly identifiable style.

An 11-disc collection from Prestige gathers all of Gordon’s recordings for the label, including 17 previously unpublished tracks. They mostly date from 1965 to 1973, when the Copenhagen-based tenor man was arguably at his physical and creative peak. Quick trips to New York resulted in memorable studio dates where Gordon revisited tried and true bop classics, and put his personal, dignified stamp on up-to-the-minute pop tunes like ‘Those Were the Days’ and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’.

Gordon also thrived on playing with other tenorists, as borne out in his heated ‘battles’ with longtime friend Gene Ammons, plus a loose, freewheeling session with Booker Ervin. No matter how long his solos, both the clarity of Gordon’s ideas (replete with liberal pop tune quotes), and the tension his behind-the-beat phrasing generates, rivet your attention.

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This is especially true of a cache of live, posthumously released archival recordings that also showcase the troubled, blazingly talented pianist Bobby Timmons on peak form. Naturally an 11-disc box set is a hefty investment, but how can one put a price tag on such joyful, generous music making?