Dexter Gordon

Power!

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To honor the tenth anniversary of Dexter Gordon's successful return Stateside, Prestige Records compiled the contents of Tower of Power! (1969) and More Power! onto this double-LP package, dubbed Power! (1979). Together they are products of the same early April of 1969 meeting between Gordon (tenor sax), James Moody (tenor sax), Barry Harris (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums). There was suitable fanfare as these represent the first time in nearly a decade that Gordon had cut a studio date and the results are uniformly impressive, particularly considering the wealth of fresh material and variations of standards that Gordon brought to the affair. The steady bop "Montmartre" lifts off with the two saxes taking a unified swing at the opening, prior to landing in a frisky bout of musical cat-and-mouse. The tempo is just loose enough to allow an equal opportunity for either tenor to launch into double-time -- alas, neither do. Rather, they trade ideas as Harris sizes up his licks to fit inside their phrasing. "Rainbow People" is one of several superior love songs and demonstrates Gordon's penchant for simple, meaningful melodies. The coziness of his timbre is coupled with the heartfelt interaction of Harris. "Stanley the Steamer" is modern -- in the context of 1969 -- soul personified. Heath grooves straight-ahead as if it were a rock & roll arrangement. And that slight adjustment to the beat lifts the entire combo to respond by countering with a comparatively standard jazz feel. Returning momentarily to the art of the ballad, "Those Were the Days" uncovers an almost immutable synchronicity as Gordon and Williams contrast and balance each other to great effect. Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird" gets revamped as Gordon and Moody square off. If it sounds like the pair are actually performing different tunes, you're probably detecting the integration of the Miles Davis melody "Half Nelson" -- which was a purported addition at the behest of Gordon's producer. Infinitely more endearing is the cover of the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic "Meditation (Meditação)." The sublime blending of blues, soul and samba reveals a rarely heard sensuality in Gordon's golden tone. Although cast as originals, the title "Fried Bananas" strongly suggests Rodgers & Hart's "It Could Happen to You," while "Boston Bernie" nods toward Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are." Those wishing to hear more from the confab are encouraged to turn to the Complete Prestige Recordings (2004) box set for previously unreleased versions of "Lady Bird," "Boston Bernie," "Montmartre," "The Rainbow People," and "Stanley the Steamer." While "Dinner for One Please, James" -- from the same dates -- would not surface until the 11-CD box set.

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