A legend in his own lifetime, Dexter Gordon was one of the greatest jazz tenor saxophonists to ever pick up the musical instrument.
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of musician Dale Turner in the 1986 Bertrand Tavernier directed music drama “‘Round Midnight,” even though Gordon did not win the award, he successfully brought his saxophone talents to the big screen and a wider audience.
Gordon’s music, brilliant in scope, is available to interested audience members on a discography spanning almost four decades. With numerous solo-releases to his name, Gordon is also known to have accompanied some of the most talented singers and musicians of the twentieth century.
Inclusive of Rob Agerbeek, Gene Ammons, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Ralph Burns, Benny Carter, Nat King Cole, Tadd Dameron, Billy Eckstine, Booker Ervin, Lowell Fulson and Dizzy Gillespie, the jazz tenor saxophonist has been sideman to some seriously talented individuals.
Talent attracts talent of a similar stature. Granted, while these people were talented, Gordon would not have been there if he hadn’t possessed the musical skills to justify him sharing the same stage. His talents were every bit as magnificent as the people he accompanied.
Born in Los Angeles, California on Tuesday, 27 Feb. 1923 Gordon was the son of Dr. Frank Gordon and Gwendolyn Baker Gordon.
Gordon’s father was one of the first African American doctors in Los Angeles. His mother was the daughter of Captain Edward Baker. The captain was one of the five African American Medal of Honor recipients to have served honourably and without regard for personal safety in the Spanish–American War.
While “’Round Midnight” plays a huge role in the way in which people remember the musician, this was not the only production where Gordon was seen acting.
Despite the musician having only made half a dozen appearances as an actor for television and film productions, a 1988 episode of the Chuck Adamson / Gustave Reininger co-created mystery crime drama “Crime Story” plays a significant role in how this writer remembers Gordon.
If you are wondering, the David Soul that directed this episode of “Crime Story” is the actor that shot to fame in the 1970s with the 1973 Ted Post directed mystery crime action film “Magnum Force” and the William Blinn created police crime drama series “Starsky and Hutch,” where the actor played Det. Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson.
Of course, music does not die with the performer.
While Gordon died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, 25 April 1990, the musicians music has lived on in productions such as “Silver City” (2004), “Sparrows Dance” (2012), “Reaching for the Moon,” “Diana” (2013), “The Age of Adaline,” “Black Mass” (2015) and the Kimberly Peirce directed episode of “Halt and Catch Fire” “One Way or Another” (2016).
The audience for Gordon’s music grows with every production where it is incorporated.