SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Dexter Gordon – Daddy Plays the Horn – Bethlehem Records/ PurePleasure vinyl

Prime bop from Dexter Gordon…

Published on October 17, 2013

Dexter Gordon – Daddy Plays the Horn – Bethlehem Records/ PurePleasure vinyl

Dexter Gordon – Daddy Plays the Horn – Bethlehem Records/PurePleasure BCP36 – mono audiophile vinyl reissue,  (1955)  ***½:

(Dexter Gordon – tenor sax; Kenny Drew – piano; Leroy Vinnegar – bass; Lawrence Marable – drums)

Before Dexter Gordon became more known as a mainstream tenor saxophonist with a strong blues influence, as well as a master balladeer; in the early ’50s he held his own with beboppers like Wardell Gray in bop sax duels.

For a 1955 Hollywood session, Gordon was recorded on Bethlehem Records with a rhythm section of pianist Kenny Drew, walking bassist extraordinaire Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Lawrence Marable. Song selection was a mixture of standard ballads and tunes written by Charlie Parker and Dexter himself.

This session has been re-released by the English audiophile LP label, PurePleasure, and remastered by Ray Staff at Air Mastering in London. It has also been put out on CD by Verse Records (not to be mistaken for Verve Records).

On the title track, a twelve-bar blues taken at a mid-tempo, Dexter sets a comfortable mood strongly supported by Drew, who gets an extended soulful solo. “Confirmation,” a Bird bop staple has Dex blowing a little less frenetic than the standard for that time period. Again Kenny Drew gets to have several full choruses, almost getting equal time with Gordon, making the tune as much his as the leader. I dug Leroy’s walking bass lines here. Dexter’s strongest work is on the ballads “Darn that Dream” as well as on “Autumn in New York.” Gordon has few tenor peers who could match him for the lyricism that these ballads deserve. Only Ben Webster comes to mind.

Other highlights can be found on “Number Four” and “You Can Depend on Me,” with the former a medium tempo tune, and the latter having a little more heat. Both show Dex fully in command and a true master of the tenor, which he would continue to demonstrate for another three decades. The time given to Kenny Drew for some extended solos is a nice bonus on this LP. The remastering is first rate as each musician is warmly presented in the sound mix.

Side A: Daddy Plays the Horn, Confirmation, Darn That Dream
Side B: Number Four, Autumn in New York, You Can Depend on Me

—Jeff Krow

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