This magnificent album of progressive jazz from the mid-'40s contains the earliest recordings released under Dexter Gordon's name. The opening session finds him in the company of Nat King Cole and Harry "Sweets" Edison. While Cole based much of his piano style on the creative accomplishments of Earl Hines, Gordon named Roy Eldridge and Lester Young as primary influences. The inspiration to emulate Prez, said Dex, "...came like a bolt out of the blue to me...I readily identified with his ideas and concepts...." This is superbly demonstrated in the relaxed jamming atmosphere of the first four tracks, particularly "I Blowed and Gone." Gordon said that by the time he joined the Lionel Hampton band in December of 1940, he'd been listening carefully to Prez "for three or four years." By 1943 Gordon's saxophone voice had ripened under that influence to the point where he was beginning to tell his own story. Then one night in 1944 at Minton's Playhouse, Gordon sat in literally between Lester Young and Ben Webster. Recording for Savoy in October of 1945, Gordon was teamed with adventurous pianist Sadik Hakim, backed by Gene Ramey and Ed Nicholson. These performances resemble Lester Young's Aladdin and early Clef recordings. The second Savoy session from January 1946 has Leonard Hawkins blowing trumpet and a wicked rhythm section in Bud Powell, Curly Russell, and Max Roach. As is the case with most of the groups heard on this collection, the combination of creative minds is stunning. And here Gordon establishes his wonderful personal regimen of delivering slow, full-feature tenor ballads. Back in 1943, "Sweet Lorraine" was shared with Nat Cole, who soon became closely identified with that melody. "I Can't Escape from You" is the first real example listeners have of Gordon the three-minute balladeer. Other forthcoming offerings in this vein are "Talk of the Town" and "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." His next session as a leader took place in Hollywood on June 5, 1947, with trombonist Melba Liston, who was soloing with and writing arrangements for Gerald Wilson's orchestra during this period (see Classics 976, the 1945-1946 volume of the label's Wilson chronology). "Mischievous Lady" and "Lullabye in Rhythm" contain what seem to be Liston's first solos recorded in a small-band environment. It's a shame that this group didn't cut a dozen more sides together. One week later, Gordon and Wardell Gray cut their famous two-part tenor blowout, "The Chase." Since Charlie Parker's "Klactoveedsedstene," with its distinctive opening clause, was recorded on October 28, 1947, it is interesting to hear the same lick used to open and close "The Chase," recorded nearly five months earlier. Which came first, the Bird or the egg? As "The Chase" proceeds, another riff emerges, forming the basis for the theme and the beginning of the first solo. It is based on Alphonse Picou's famous clarinet passage from "High Society," the old New Orleans jazz anthem. Here is the great multi-generational span dance, the new thing firmly grounded in the old. Every single record reissued here is worth its weight in gold. Gordon's Dial recordings, especially "Chromatic Aberration" and "Bikini," are full-blooded mature statements from a 24-year-old master improviser wise beyond his years. Even in the face of all the great records he would make in the years to come, this stash of Dexter Gordon's early work should be cherished among his very best.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf