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Tue, 02.27.1923

Saxophonist, Dexter Gordon exemplified the culture of jazz

Dexter Gordon

*Dexter Gordon was born on this date in 1923. He was an African American bop tenor saxophonist.

From Los Angeles, Calif. Dexter Keith Gordon played the clarinet and alto saxophone as a teenager, but the improvising of Lester Young inspired him to play the tenor saxophone exclusively.

He gained early experience in bands led by Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Billy Eckstine, and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who also influenced Gordon's music. A big-toned, exultant, lyrical soloist, he became known for epic mock-battles with fellow tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray during the late 1940s.

While serving a prison term for narcotics-related charges he made his acting debut in the film Unchained 1955. After his release he composed for and played and acted in a Los Angeles production of Jack Gelber's play The Connection1960 and recorded albums such as Go! and A Swingin' Affair that are considered his major works. He then lived in Europe from 1962 to 1976, recording and touring frequently, though rarely to America.

His acting role as a self-destructive bebop saxophonist in the 1986 film Round Midnight won him an Academy Award nomination with the movie. Dexter Gordon died in 1990 in Philadelphia.

Reference:
Jazz People
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
Copyright 1976
ISBN 0-8109-1152-3

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