Dexter Gordon

Nicknamed Long Tall Dexter, 6ft 6in saxophonist Dexter Gordon became the Sophisticated Giant of the American jazz scene with a career that spanned 50 years. Picking up the saxophone at 15, he learned his trade as a member of Lionel Hampton's big band before making his first recordings with Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. Rising from the be-bop and swing scene of Central Avenue, Los Angeles, Gordon became renowned for his duelling jam sessions with Wardell Gray and made his name with the albums Dexter Rides Again (1945), The Chase (1947) and Daddy Plays The Horn (1955), before signing with the legendary Blue Note label and producing the classics Go! (1962) and A Swingin' Affair (1962). Humiliated by drug addiction, prison sentences and racism, Gordon left America to spend 15 years in Europe, occasionally returning to record the classics Our Man In Paris (1963), Clubhouse (1965) and Getting' Around (1965). While living in Copenhagen he became godfather to future Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and he was later nominated for an Oscar in 1986 for his semi-biographical role as musician Dale Turner in Round Midnight. As jazz styles became more modern and funky, Gordon stuck to his be-bop roots and was greeted as something of a living legend when he returned to the US in 1976. He died in 1990 aged 67 from kidney failure but his legacy lives on.

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