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Dexter Gordon: XXL: Live at the Left Bank

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XXL, the title of this album, stands for extra-long tracks, which says it all about LTD-Long Tall Dexter. Recorded live at Baltimore’s Famous Ballroom for the Left Bank Jazz Society in 1969, this session of unreleased material contains just three marathons: Monk’s “Rhythm-a-ning” is 24 minutes long; “Misty,” just over 10; and “Love for Sale” is close to 22. What could be more ideal for someone who could stretch out with such elegance? And what could be more satisfying for loyal fans of the six-foot, five-inch genius of the tenor?

In his prime at age 46, Gordon was on one of his many returns from Europe when he got this gig with a most deferential rhythm section: Bobby Timmons, piano; Victor Gaskin, bass; Percy Brice, drums. While the balance between rhythmic support and the horn out front is merely adequate, all solos were captured so perfectly-as was the intense enthusiasm of the audience-they compensate for the rare lack of ensemble clarity.

These guys could anticipate one another’s melodic and harmonic quirks instinctively. The instincts of the long-underrated Timmons were never sharper. His comping was a gap-filling extension of Dexter’s well-shaped ideas. Talk about sculpting: dig Timmons’ memorable solo on “Misty.” Gaskin’s arco on “Rhythm-a-ning” is astonishing. Ditto for the pluck he shows on “Love for Sale,” on which Brice provides the combo with a propulsive Latin foundation.

As for Long Tall’s musical humor, he couldn’t resist interpolating “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” as a cadenza for “Misty.”