Dexter Gordon

The Tower of Power

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Dexter Gordon (tenor sax) returned to the United States in the spring of 1969 to create his first studio recordings in nearly a decade. Joined by James Moody (tenor sax), Barry Harris (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums), Gordon actually documented enough material for two long players -- Tower of Power (1969) and More Power! (1969) -- both of which became primary staples of the artist's voluminous Prestige catalog. An opening flourish from Heath on "Montmartre" marks the commencement of the platter, leading into a mid-tempo bop. Gordon and Moody swing steadily as they bounce ideas off each other. The arrangement is loose enough to allow Harris to subtly interject and punctuate within the spaces left by the two tenors. His quote of Georges Bizet's Carmen is especially tasty. Heath turns the beat around to undergird the unit with a funkier, almost rock rhythm -- a device that the percussionist would refer back to in short order. The lovely Gordon original "Rainbow People" is full of warm textures revealing a remarkably intimate rapport between he and Harris. Williams' thick and wistful lines add a measure of empathy to Gordon's introspective leads. As he had done earlier, Heath's slippery and mutable groove at the start of "Stanley the Steamer" has shades of soul as the rest of the combo remain comparatively straight for maximum effect. The exchanges and banter created by Williams and Harris are priceless as they briefly and creatively cajole. Heath then is given room for an all-too-brief solo before wrapping up the affair behind the same conspicuously catchy cadence from the top. The cover of Gene Raskin's memorable ballad "Those Were the Days" is a fitting conclusion if not an emotional zenith for all involved. Once again, Gordon and Williams are stunning in their affinity for balance and timing as they complement each other -- particularly during the introduction as the bassist incorporates the longing and yearning sonic consistency of a bow. Gordon selflessly provides copious space to his bandmates, a quality that certainly makes selections such as these a pleasure to revisit. Nowhere is there a better example than just prior to the song's coda as Harris gets a final chance to contribute. Another five titles from these sessions were released as More Power! (1969) the following year and all nine were eventually compiled some ten years later as simply Power! (1979). Alternate versions of "Montmartre," "The Rainbow People," and "Stanley the Steamer" are likewise an essential part of Gordon's Complete Prestige Recordings (2004) 11-CD box set.

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