Dexter Gordon - Soy CalifaWednesday 11 Jun 2014
Duration: 29 minutes
The American tenor sax legend Dexter Gordon (1923-1990) lived in Copenhagen between 1962 and 1976. Dex and his sidemen famously played long sessions at Montmartre, the popular jazz venue in the Danish capital, performances that might start at 9.00pm and end at 3.00am in the morning.
In return for the sorting out of Danish work permits, the sax-player also agreed to teach occasional classes. Hence the location, Magleaas High School, chosen for this Danish TV recording on August 5, 1967. His band included the celebrated pianist Kenny Drew, the wonderfully expressive Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on double bass, and Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath on drums that are suitably effervescent, certainly on the two upbeat tracks issued here.
Side A of the record begins with Gordon's Caribbean-tinged Soy Califa, a highly-charged, seven-minute exercise that careers happilly along.This is followed by a version of Johnny Mandel’s The Shadow of Your Smile. We are not comparing like with like here, obviously, but Sarah Vaughan sang that aching ballad with such devastating grace and poise that for this writer nothing beats her version.
As a general observation, the recording has that crunched or gritty sound that harks back to a pre-digital age. Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s a live recording, without any tweakings.
Side B features the fast and frenetic Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons number, The Blues Up and Down, an infectiously blissful exercise, with Dexter on top form. Relentlessly, it drives on, entranced by its own energy. The tune includes a brilliant, albeit short solo from double bass player Ørsted Pedersen, who was born in 1946 and died in 2005.
The brief solo shows just how talented he was, a veritable poet of strings and wood. Some thirty years afterwards, the man who was sometimes dubbed the Great Dane with the Never-Ending Name would play a very fine gig himself at Vicar Street.