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Dexter Gordon/Ben Webster: Tenor Titans

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Composed entirely of previously unreleased concert performances recorded in Denmark, Tenor Titans first showcases Gordon in 1972 with the Thomas Clausen Trio playing his own “Sticky Wicket” and then with Palle Mikkelborg’s big band on “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me.” Next, Webster is brought on to play “Our Love Is Here To Stay” with the same rhythm section, after which both tenormen are heard on a July/August 1969 medley from Jazzstaevnet, on which Ben plays a haunting “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and Dexter an equally sensitive “Sophisticated Lady.” The swinging 15-minute “Perdido” which follows stems from the March 1972 Flensborg set and finds Ben thoroughly warmed to the task of playful combat with his younger friend, who is in similarly fine fettle. The program then reverts to 1969 for two more exciting tracks, “In A Mellotone” and “C Jam Blues,” which also feature rewarding solos by Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning rsted Pedersen.

Because many examples already abound of the playing of Gordon and Webster from this period, the Warne Marsh session from December 1975 may be perhaps a tad more intriguing. Unlike the older tenormen, who, for all of their obvious virtues, had become rather predictable at this juncture in their respective careers, Marsh was, by conscious determination, an improviser adamantly averse to self-replication. Thus, the opportunity to hear him at length in a trio setting with NH P and drummer Al Levitt is a special one indeed. Like his early mentors Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz, Marsh never tired of reinvestigating the harmonies of long familiar standard tunes, and, it should be added, neither have his admirers ever wearied of hearing him do just that. Here, in addition to asserting his strong personality on bop anthems “Confirmation” and “Little Wille Leaps,” he also engages, among the ten remaining titles, the changes of “Just One Of Those Things,” “All The Things You Are,” “I Should Care” and “I Want To Be Happy.”

Recorded live in Copenhagen in July 1979 with bassist Jesper Lundgaard and drummer Bjarne Rostvold, the program chosen by virtuosic pianist Newborn is typically hip for this onetime darling of the critics. However, equally typical is his conspicuous distance from anything remotely associated with originality. Presumably a disciple of Tatum and Peterson, Newborn had more than adequate technical command of his instrument, but, unlike these men, not to mention Monk, Powell and Silver, there is little to his music behind its surface sheen. His repertoire includes such guaranteed friend-winners as “Daahoud,” a medley of “Billie’s Bounce” and “Walkin’,” “Nice’s Dream,” “Oleo” and “A Night In Tunisia,” but only as they may have been performed by a disproportionately endowed neighborhood lounge player.