After spending a decade-plus living and working in Europe, Dexter Gordon made a triumphant return to the U.S. jazz scene in 1976. But forming a working group whose members could support his long excursions into whatever standard he chose was his goal, so he soon recruited three talented young musicians: pianist George Cables, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Eddie Gladden, who appeared on all or part of several Columbia albums he made over the next several years and a trio of live CDs that weren't released until 1990, the year of his death. This compilation draws from four nights in 1977 at the Rising Sun in Montreal, all likely recorded for Gordon's use and not with the idea of issuing them. Fans of Dexter Gordon are in for a treat, given a front-row seat in the club to hear the tenor saxophonist's long but imaginative interpretations of four standards plus his tag theme, weaving in his share of musical quotes from other favorites. He begins several performances by reciting the lyrics (or a variation of them) to the songs. His majestic coda to "Lover Man" is an obvious highlight, as is his dramatic, achingly slow setting of "You've Changed," milking the song's emotions for all they are worth. Gordon's take of "Old Folks" captures the combination of whimsy and nostalgia in this Willard Robison ballad. Reid's brilliant bassline and Cables' moving solo add to its luster. Gordon again gives a master class to young saxophonists with his deliberate, melodic interpretation of the timeless ballad "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," followed by a brief foray into his "LTD" as he thanks his audience and invites them to return. Throughout the date, Dexter's young accompanists provide terrific support, while both Cables and Reid shine when the leader turns the spotlight over to them. The detailed liner notes feature commentary by both Maxine Gordon (his widow) and George Cables. Dexter Gordon fans will hope for more music from the tenor saxophonist's extended gig at the Rising Sun to emerge on future volumes.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden