Dexter Gordon – Dexter Calling – Blue Note ST-84083/ Analogue Productions CBNJ84083 SA – SACD Stereo-only (1961), 43:13 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****½:
(Dexter Gordon, tenor sax; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums)
Recorded in 1961, as his second issue for Blue Note, Dexter Gordon was transitioning from his Los Angeles environs to New York, where he would split his time with living in Europe for the rest of his life. Pre-Blue Note, Gordon was a tried and true bebopper and could blow hard and hot with the best of the bop crowd. After coming on board with Blue Note (he was a personal favorite of the label’s owner, Alfred Lion), Dexter in the 1960s played on numerous hard bop and mainstream sessions. What always stood out was his lyrical soulfulness, his mastery of the ballad and his muscular big sound on the tenor.
On Dexter Calling we get a full dose of Gordon minus any other horns. Kenny Drew on piano was a perfect accompanist, as he provides bluesy fills while Philly Joe Jones on drums is as steady as a rock. On “Soul Sister” Gordon’s mastery of the blues is so evident on this softer hard bop tune. Recorded in waltz time, Drew gets a chance also to show his blues chops, while Paul Chamber’s walking bass provides the steady bottom end.
“Modal Mood” lets Gordon go up-tempo with inventive harmonic and melodic ease, he makes it look so effortless, with only Sonny Rollins coming to mind as being an equal. The pop song, “End of a Love Affair” follows and Gordon stays in the mid-register, blowing with such ease and showing his mastery of the idiom. Philly Joe’s presence is felt strongly here as he is fully in lock step with Dexter’s sax runs.
“Clear the Dex” gives us Chamber’s Arco solo and Drew’s soulful grooving to go along with Philly Joe’s assertive drive of the quartet. “Ernie’s Tune” from Gordon’s score for Freddie Redd’s East Coast play, The Connection, is simply sublime and goes through several changes in mood as it represents the mercurial character in the play.
I’ve always loved Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and Gordon nails both its beauty, and gives it an up-tempo reading that you seldom hear on this composition.
This SACD includes “Landslide” as a bonus track. It was recorded between 1961 and 1962, and later included in a 1981 issue of tunes from three sessions from this period.
Once again Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman have done their usual first rate SACD remastering. It is especially evident in the clarity and richness of Kenny Drew’s playing as well as both Paul Chamber’s mastery of the bass and the upfront mix of Philly Joe’s drums.
Dexter’s calling out to us in SACD warmness. It’s time for us to answer and add this SACD Blue Note re-issue to our collection.
TrackList: Soul Sister, Modal Mood, I Want More, The End of a Love Affair, Clear the Dex, Ernie’s Tune, Smile, Landslide
The counterculture movie from the 60x