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.