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Dexter Gordon: Blue Dex: Dexter Gordon Plays the Blues

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These CDs are anthologized from the Prestige output of these four great figures. The idea is presumably to lure young listeners without much jazz experience into deeper waters, and hopefully it will work. Certainly one feels that the Coltrane and Miles sets could penetrate even MTV-hardened craniums. But the assumption is that readers of this magazine already know that there are an easy half dozen crucial Prestige records for both of these artists. The Gordon and Hawkins are from less significant periods for each man, and in a way more likely to be recommended to serious jazz fans, but I find the format a little awkward. Sometimes theme anthologies like this give you a fresh hearing, and the Coltrane release has some of that feeling. The rest is like a particular spice that adds a certain tang to various dishes being isolated and made into a main course.

None of which is to say that the music isn’t great, except for a low common denominator track or two on the Dexter set. So if you know a youngster who shows signs of graduating from the guitar-burning phase, consider these. Otherwise you probably already have what’s important here.