Say It's Your Birthday: Dexter Gordon

Today we celebrate not just the birthday of jazz man

Dexter Gordon but the saxophone titan's entire life. Born February 27, 1923 in

Los Angeles, Gordon's exuberant tenor genius was fully in place before it's

owner could legally buy himself a beer. He arrived just as jazz was turning a

corner and his playing contained the entire scope of the change. It featured

the discipline discipline, rhythm and lyricism of the swing era just drawing to

a close, but also the curiosity, creativity, and emotional fire of the new

thing called be bop. It was a style of so many possibilities that Dexter was

out there exploring years after younger cat's he'd influenced were dead and

gone. He played the expatriate jazz man in Copenhagen for fifteen years, and

when he returned to the States in the late '70s his skills had not diminished,

as evidenced by his Downbeat musician of the year awards in 1976 and

1980, the latter the year he was elected to the Jazz Hall of Fame. He was

nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a self-destructive musician in the

1986 film 'Round Midnight, but the role was not autobiographical. When

Gordon died on April 26, 1990 he'd Neil Young there was a third option beyond

burning out or fading away: keeping on. Other birthdays today Adrian Smith of

Iron Maiden, Paul Humphries of OMD, Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel, and Neil

Schon.