Dan’s Advent Saxophone Calendar #12 – Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon is certainly unique, to my knowledge he’s the only serious jazz musician to ever be nominated for an acting Oscar and his incredible career marks him out as one of the true ‘Giants’ of the saxophone.

Dexter was born on February, 27th 1923.  His His father, Dr. Frank Gordon, was one of the first African American doctors in Los Angeles who arrived in 1918 after graduating from Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C. Among his patients were Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.

Gordon was one of the first tenor players to translate what Charlie Parker had done on the Alto Saxophone, but he also owes a huge debt to Lester Young.  Dexter Gordon spent time in and out of prison for drug abuse and other misdemeanours, but in the 1960s signed for Blue Note records and recorded some of the best albums on the iconic label.

A visit to England in the mid 60’s led to a 14 year stay in Europe where Dexter recorded for many small, independent European labels.  A triumphant return to New York in 1976 heralded a renaissance for Dexter Gordon that lasted until his death in 1990.