Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon
After a swing period, Dexter Gordon became a major figure in bebop and then hardbop.  Known for his powerful sound, his mastery and his phrasing, he was a great influence for the following great tenor saxophonists such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane.

Born in Los Angeles in 1923, Dexter Gordon began playing clarinet at the age of 13, before moving to alto saxophone at 15 and tenor at 17. It was at this age that he began his career in Lionel Hampton's orchestra, with whom he made his first recordings. During a tour in New York in 1943, he did a few sessions with his idol and major influence: Lester Young. That same year he joined Fletcher Henderson's big band, then the following year Louis Armstrong's big band. Already enjoying a certain notoriety, he recorded under his own name in 1943 alongside Nat King Cole.

In 1944, he joined Billy Eckstine's famous band and played alongside the greatest figures of bebop: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron... In 1947, he recorded The Chase, where he engaged in mythical duels with his partner Wardell Gray.

After a period of relative inactivity due to addiction problems, he signs a contract with Blue Note in 1960 and comes back to the forefront with Doing Alright. He moved to Europe in the 1960s and learned the soprano saxophone. Upon his return to the United States in 1976, he was triumphantly received and signed with the prestigious Columbia record company. In 1978 and 1980, he was voted Best Musician of the Year by Down Beat magazine.

He began a short acting career in 1986, for which he received an Oscar, before dying of kidney failure in 1990.

Photo credit: Rob Bogaerts