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Dexter Gordon, Boxed Again, Plus a Big Savoy Box

Another Dexter Gordon box set? Yep. We love reporting on these.

If the 11-disc set we told you about last week seems a bit much, perhaps you’ll find Savoy’s Bopland more manageable. The three-CD set collects the nearly three hours of stone-cold bebop played by saxophonist Gordon and a crew of soon-to-be stars at Los Angeles’ Elks Auditorium on July 6, 1947.

The Elks Auditorium show was a legendary night in jazz, with Gordon stepping onstage to duke it out in a series of bebop battles with Wardell Gray. Gordon, at 24, wasn’t a leader that night. The bands that played the Elks Auditorium Jazz Concert-Dance that night were the orchestras of Howard McGhee, Bill Moore and Al Killian, plus the Bopland Boys. In addition to Dex, the set features the playing of West Coast heroes like Sony Criss, Hampton Hawes, Red Callender and Barney Kessel. Check out the track list below.

Bopland includes about 25 minutes of previously unreleased music, including the full version of “Perdido” with pianist Russ Freeman and tenor saxophonists Bill Moore and Gene Montgomery. The booklet is lean on photographs, but features a lengthy essay on the music and history of the performance by Dexter’s widow, Maxine. The set is in stores now.

Bopland track list:

Disc 1:

1. Bopera

2. What Is This Thing Called Love?

3. Body And Soul

4. Back Breaker

Disc 2:

1. Bopland

2. Bop After Hour

3. Hunt, The

Disc 3:

1. Perdido

2. Blow, Blow, Blow

3. Jeronimo

Savoy also recently released a four-disc box set, Stompin’ at the Savoy, that chronicles the label’s output from 1944-61 and includes tracks by Hot Lips Page, Slim Galliard, Johnny Otis, Earl Williams and others who tracked the R&B hits Savoy enjoyed releasing in its halcyon years. These four albums contain hit records and rediscovered gems from the Savoy vault. Here’s some info on each disc:

Disc one, “Harlem Nocturne,” covers 1944-1947, Savoy’s fledgling years, and the artists who put the label on the map, including trumpeter Hot Lips Page, bluesman Joe Turner, crooner Billy Eckstine, blues artist Gatemouth Moore, R&B bandleader Johnny Otis, boogie-woogie star Pete Johnson, the Harlem vocal group the Ravens and more.

Disc two, “Red Hot Blues,” covers 1948-1951: the birth of jump blues, as recorded by Paul Williams (“The Hucklebuck”), Johnny Otis and his protégés Little Esther and the Robins, Hal Singer and more.

Disc three, “Things Have Changed,” features hits from 1951-1955, the era that saw jump blues morph into rockabilly and early rock and roll. The disc features shouter H-Bomb Ferguson, Varetta Dillard, Philadelphia vocal group the Dreams and gospel-blues star Nappy Brown.

Disc four, “Hot Rod,” covers 1955-1961 and sees Savoy continuing to focus on R&B and the rising style that would become known as soul, while other competitors joined the rock and roll revolution. It features Savoy stars like Nappy Brown and Big Maybelle, as well as bluesmen like Brownie McGhee, high-schoolers the Cubs and the Jive Bombers vocal group.

For more info on Savoy, visit www.savoyjazz.com.

Originally Published