How ironic that concert performance, once the definition of musical ephemerality, has become the richest vein to mine for vintage jazz gold. Working with producer Michael Cuscuna, Elemental has unearthed a cannily matched pair of albums recorded (mostly) in Japan that offer fresh sounds from two musically related giants.
Dexter Gordon’s Tokyo 1975 catches the tenor titan the year before his triumphant return to the American jazz scene with the Homecoming album. For most of this recording, he’s working with the same Kenny Drew-led trio that backed him on The Apartment, with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass and Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums, but their playing at Yubin Chokin Hall is far less restrained than in the studio. For instance, NHØP’s line during the head of “The Days of Wine and Roses” is less an accompaniment than a sort of counter-solo, and it’s no less busy than Drew’s cascading chords and the churning polyrhythms Heath lays down.