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Dexter Gordon: Satin Doll

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When 45-year-old previously unreleased jazz appears, there is always a story. But Mark Gardner’s gushy liner notes here do a poor job of telling it. You have to do your own research into Dexter Gordon’s biography and discography to piece together the narrative behind Satin Doll.

Gordon, one of the first bop tenor saxophonists, lived in Europe in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was a fixture at the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, and many of his gigs were recorded for radio transmission by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Satin Doll comes from June 29, 1967. In 1997, Blue Note released part of that night as The Squirrel. The rest was lost until now. The band is pianist Kenny Drew, young Danish bassist Bo Stief and drummer Art Taylor.

The tunes are loose, rough and long-winded. Gordon wasn’t making a record; it was just one night in the life. He blows with uncharacteristic sloppiness but also passionate urgency. He opens “Billie’s Bounce” with a caterwauling eight-minute onslaught, illogical in its transitions, powerful in the density of its blues content. Throughout “It’s You or No One,” he touches down, scorches the earth around one constellation of idea, then rockets on, searching for more subjects. He is on the edge of careening out of control, and he stays there all night.

The special energy here starts with Taylor. His drumming is ferocious and free. Unfortunately the monophonic sound of this album is raw and ugly. The balance is so far off that you hear Taylor’s irregular bombs much better than his ride cymbal, and the effect is disorienting.

June 29, 1967 was a wild night, but Gordon’s discography is large, with many great, well-produced albums on Blue Note and Columbia. Satin Doll is for Gordon completists.

Originally Published