Before Dexter Gordon's historic U.S. homecoming tour in the late 1970s, he and fellow expatriate Joe Newman visited Chicago for these live dates at the Jazz Workshop. They teamed up with the great jazz trio of drummer Wilbur Campbell, bassist Eddie DeHaas (misspelled in the liner notes) and pianist Jodie Christian to play a stack of standards with hard swinging in mind. Christian in particular sounds very inspired, ripping off huge lines or chords at will and freely with masterful dexterity. Gordon and Newman were old friends since the '50s, and it shows in not only their ability to play together, but their deference to each other's solo space and leadership roles. Yes, this is Gordon's bandstand as he takes the bulk of the solos, clearly chose the repertoire, and does the announcing, but Newman is no slouch, and sounds as good as ever, playing precise lines that at times exudes a confidence greater than Gordon. Much more than a simple jam session with a pick-up band, Gordon and Newman come out of the box roaring on "Tangerine," with the trumpeter's sweet harmony lines giving way to Gordon's classic hard bop sound, and Christian boosting the group over this lengthy warm-up. They tear into "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," a vehicle perfectly suited for wailing at a steady tempo as the two horns play together, while on "Walkin'," Newman jumps ahead of the tenor man as if he knows the tune better, convincingly leading out while Gordon plays the harmonic part. Newman's feature is the curious pop song "Ode to Billy Joe," turned into a soul-jazz piece, quiet for the bulk of the tune with the trumpeter and DeHaas opting for their own take on the controversial lyric turned instrumental, then turning it into a funky postlude swing. Gordon's two part "Body & Soul" may have been marred by a reel recorder running out of tape, split up by a gaping hole of silence, then faded in. He also does "The Shadow of Your Smile" without Newman, and it is all classic, romantic, and sultry Dex. Collectors should want this well-recorded one-shot session between two acclaimed jazz masters that the U.S. turned their back on for all the wrong reasons. That they returned to America treating us with their gifts, and that they were documented so lovingly here, is something we should all be thankful for. Are there any additional tracks for further volumes?
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