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Home » SOME NOTES ON DEXTER GORDON, ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT, AND JAZZ MOODS

SOME NOTES ON DEXTER GORDON, ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT, AND JAZZ MOODS

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To appreciate the spectacle that is Dexter Gordon I highly recommend the Sony BMG release of their Jazz Moods – ‘Round Midnight.” For aficionado’s this release will play like a slideshow of Gordon’s best moments from the movie Round Midnight. The release provides a compressed capsule of all the sounds that fill out Gordon’s unique repertoire of 7ths, 9ths, 11ths and etc…

For the newcomer I strongly suggest buying this capsule and listening closely to it for a week or two. After a period of time has passed, and the music’s intellectual atonal melody has become familiar, then watch the movie ‘Round Midnight. Watch it, and steep yourself in the image of Dexter Gordon’s giantess, his burbling speech, his smoky hands, and half-fogged eyes.

‘Round Midnight is a movie that starred Dexter Gordon as the lead character, a jazz saxophonist named Dale Turner. This Bertrand Tavernier film explores the Jazz age at the Blue Note in Paris and puts in context the jazz saxophonists of the prior era. But what most viewers are left with is a sense that this film could not have been made without Dexter Gordon…the film is a once in a lifetime experience. No other person ever—neither before nor after Gordon could act the role nor play the music.

After watching ‘Round Midnight, pop this release from the Jazz Moods series back in and the richness of your listening experience will be redoubled. You’ll now have the images of the movie where Gordon is expanding the music in the smoky backroom of the Blue Note to hold in memory as the tracks play in the foreground of your listening. The hulking Gordon and his portrayal of the alcoholic Dale Turner makes for a stunning performance. This performance accompanied with his prodigious riffs exploring the empty space in the rhythm just off of bass and far in front of the percussion makes for a wildly emotional alchemy.

The movie in many ways is about memory. It is about remembering the innovators who made jazz sound the way it does. The movie asks the audience to privilege the contributions of artists who put their art even before their own lives. The movie depicts an artist who decimated his own personal life because he could only manage his enslaving addiction and his music. The movie gives the viewer a glimpse of the artist emerging from addiction late in life so he can get a brief but meaningful glimpse of what he has created. For a brief time his life expands beyond music and addiction so he can be present for others and ultimately for his own death.

This release from Jazz Moods brings the movie, Gordon’s iconic history, and his music back to us as a resonance among resonances…I promise if you watch ‘Round Midnight and then listen to this release you’ll find yourself at the whims of images that supplement the genius that was Dexter Gordon. The music in companion with the movie will trigger that wellspring of sadness mixed with something that might almost be called glee. When listening to Dexter Gordon the heart beats in rhythm with the soul.

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About David Koehn