© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
I realize that Jazz is blessed with a Pantheon of Tenor Saxophone Gods that include the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, but let me tell you that when Dexter Gordon planted his feet and decided to bring it, he was one incredible tenor saxophone player. From every perspective - tone, sound, ideas, feel, time, swing - Dex was a master player.
Jazz is not about rating; Jazz is not about ranking; Jazz is not about contests and polls.
But if I had to select one tenor saxophonist to take with me to the proverbial desert island, I would run to find my copy of Dexter Gordon: The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions. Figuratively and literally, the music on these recordings is an example of a time when Giants Ruled The Jazz World and one of them was named “Dexter Gordon.”
- The editorial staff at JazzProfiles
To my ears, the quintessential sound of modern Jazz is a quintet fronted by trumpet and tenor sax and backed by a piano-bass-drums rhythm section.
[Of course, I could be persuaded to consider a trumpet and alto sax front line if these were occupied by Donald Byrd and Phil Woods or Stu Williamson and Charlie Mariano, respectively. And then there’s the quintet that Donald led with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams …. What am I getting myself into here?]
When it comes to the tenor saxophone portion of the trumpet + tenor saxophone equation, my thoughts often turn to the Blue Note Recordings that the late, Dexter Gordon made in the early 1960s with Freddie Hubbard in the trumpet chair. Talk about fireworks!
Because of those Blue Note recordings, many Jazz fans are not aware that Dexter was a Westcoaster before he became prominent on the East Coast. Of course, later in his career he would secure more international fame as a result of his long residence in Europe.
Before he relocated to New York City, I got to meet Dexter during his tenure as a member of the quartet appearing in Jack Gelber’s play The Connection when we were introduced by a friend that we had in common - drummer, Stan Levey. At the time of this meeting, Dexter was anything but the laconic and languid personality he adopted in his later life. He had recently overcome some personal issues and was bursting with energy as was reflected in the quips and barbs which he traded freely with Stan, whom he greeted as something akin to a long-lost brother. “Lord Stanley, my Man!”
[I have reposted my earlier piece on Dexter’s appearance in The Connection at the Ivar Theater in Hollywood to the side bar of the blog as an accompaniment to this feature].
Jazz is continually evolving and, as such, doesn’t provide too many opportunities these days to hear the music in my favorite quintet format featuring a trumpet and tenor sax front line.
Imagine my delight, then, when drummer Eric Ineke contacted me from his base in The Netherlands to share with me that his working group - The JazzXpress - had just released a new CD featuring ten  original compositions by none other than Dexter Gordon!!
It gets even better because Eric’s JazzXpress is fronted by … you guessed it … Ric Mol on trumpet and Sjoerd Dijkhuizen on tenor saxophone, both of whom are more than ably supported by a rhythm section of Rob van Bavel on piano, Marius Beets on bass and, of course, the grand master himself, Eric Ineke on drums. All of the arrangements were done by Marius, Rob and Sjoerd with Marius pulling it all together at the chief recording engineer, mixer and master-maker.
The CD is entitled Dexternity [Daybreak DBCHR 75225] and it is available from Challenge Records via this link and as an audio CD from Amazon and CD Universe.
Along with the music, Eric sent along a wealth of information about how the recording came into existence written by both he and by Maxine Gordon who was instrumental in developing the recording as a tribute to her late husband.
Since I couldn’t improve upon them, I thought I would present these annotation “as is” and follow them with my own contribution to this piece in the form of a video tribute to Dexter featuring the Mrs. Minniver track from the Dexternity CD.
DEXTERNITY - THE MUSIC OF DEXTER GORDON
The new album of The Eric Ineke JazzXpress on Challenge/Daybreak Records
Back in 2014 Dexter Gordon's widow, Maxine Gordon, contacted Eric Ineke and asked him if she could interview him for the book she is currently writing about her late husband. Some months later they met at a hotel in Amsterdam where Eric told her about the many concerts he played with Dexter back in the 1970's. Together with pianist Rein de Graaff and bass player Henk Haverhoek they formed one of the regular rhythm sections behind Dexter when he was living in Copenhagen and touring Europe.
In 1972 Dexter recorded a live album entitled All Souls with the Rob Agerbeek Trio that also features Eric on drums. On his 1977 European tour, Eric accompanied him together with Tete Montoliu from Spain on piano and Rob Langereis, also from The Netherlands, on bass.
Last year  Maxine Gordon invited Eric to join her during a special night at the Conservatory of Amsterdam where the 1986 movie Round Midnight was displayed. The movie stars Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and many other jazz legends. That night Eric told her about his plan to record an album that pays tribute to the musical legacy of her husband.
She responded with much enthusiasm so he decided to ask her to write the liner notes. While working on Dexter's biography in Paris a few weeks later she wrote the liner notes for the album, Dexternity, which we now proudly present to you.
Dexternity is the seventh studio album of the Eric Ineke JazzXpress. The band consists of five of The Netherlands' top jazz musicians: Rob van Bavel on piano, Rik Mol on trumpet, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen on tenor saxophone, Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums. Earlier albums feature American vocalist Deborah Brown on vocals and Benjamin Herman on alto saxophone.
A historic recording of Dexter Gordon, Eric Ineke, Rein de Graaff and Henk Haverhoek, is to be released on LP on Gearbox Records (England) on November 4. It was recorded live at Societeit Heemskerk for Dutch national radio (VPRO) on November 3,1972, right after a two month tour of Dexter and the trio through Europe. The album is named after one of Dexter’s own compositions that was on the set list that night: Fried Bananas. Maxine Gordon wrote the liner notes for this album as well.
For more information about Eric Ineke's career, upcoming gigs and releases, visit www.ericineke.com
ERIC INEKE JAZZXPRESS - DEXTERNITY by Maxine Gordon
“When Dexter Gordon arrived in London in 1962 to play at Ronnie Scott's Club, he had no plans to remain in Europe as long as he did. As he liked to say, "I came for one gig in London and when I looked up it was 14 years later." Dexter eventually settled in Copenhagen where he rode a bicycle, bought a house, got married, had a son, and performed for months at a time at Jazzhus Montmartre.
But he didn't stay exclusively in Denmark. He traveled to France, to Germany, to Italy, to Spain, to Portugal, to Switzerland, to Luxembourg, to Belgium, to Austria, to Switzerland, to Sweden, to Norway, to Finland and very often to Holland. There was a booking agent in the town of Wageningen, named Wim Wigt who could find a gig for Dexter and his Dutch band in the smallest venues in the country and neighboring countries as well.
Normally when Dexter toured in Europe it was as a solo musician picking up local rhythm sections in each city along the way. But in Holland, he had a "working band" with Rein de Graaff on piano, Henk Haverhoek on bass and Eric Ineke on drums.
On October 12,1972, Dexter wrote to friends in Copenhagen from Liege, Belgium. He writes: ‘Dear Folks, This is 'den gamle rejsemusiker' [the old traveling musician] letting the folks back home know that I'm O.K and am defending the colors! This tour is quite fantastic; we are traveling through Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, Beige and France! It's six weeks, no 7 weeks and I'm getting rich! Anyway, it's very well organized and seems to be a success. For the most part I'm working with the same group... Hope everything is in order. Love, Absalon (Gordonsen).’
In the Netherlands, Wim Wigt managed to find gigs in Hilversum, Leiden, Veendam, Venlo, Zwolle, Den Haag, Heemskerk, Amsterdam, De Woude, Rotterdam, and Enschede. When Dexter would tell people about all the towns he had played in during his time in Holland, they were incredulous. He would tell them that there were jazz lovers in all these places in a country the size of the state of Maryland.
When a band travels together and eats meals together and works this often, they get to know each other in a very special way. They know their habits and moods and they learn to play together when they have this rare opportunity to be in such close proximity for these weeks. The music improves every night and with Dexter, we can be sure that he found a way to communicate what he expected from the rhythm section.
Dexter had a particular idea of what he wanted to hear and if he wasn't comfortable with the band, he would definitely let them know. Dexter had very kind words about his "Dutch band" and how serious they were about the music and how much they cared about the musicians from the States who came to Europe to play.
[Drummer] Eric Ineke spoke about Dexter in an interview in 2014 in Amsterdam. "With Dexter, I had communication right away. Dexter had a way of telling you things in a very nice way. In the car, when we were driving, he'd say, 'Eric, can you...' He thought that if he told me some things to do in the music, it would get even better. I remember all of one thing that was right on stage. It was Germany and we were playing a ballad. I got out the brushes, but I used to have my brushes a little smaller for fast playing, it was easier than the other way. So I played a ballad. And Dexter was doing this thing with his ear, and on the ear like he couldn't hear me! And he was looking at my brushes, and he said, on stage, 'Eric! Open up those m*****f***ers!' (laughter). When Eric Ineke talks about the time with Dexter, he remembers many things Dexter said to him and he smiles at the memories of those days.
This tribute CD that Eric Ineke has organized includes some of Dexter's signature compositions including Fried Bananas, The Panther (composed in tribute to the Black Panthers), Tivoli, Boston Bernie, Sticky Wicket, Soy Califa, Mrs. Minniver, and Cheese Cake. They have also included the classic Body and Soul in honor of Dexter and the composition that "must" be played every night, according to Dexter Gordon. We are very grateful to Eric Ineke for never forgetting his time with Dexter and for honoring him with this lovely recording. We can be sure that Dexter would be very pleased indeed. Dank u wel.”
Maxine Gordon. President,
The Dexter Gordon Society www.dextergordon.org
SOME AFTERTHOUGHTS ABOUT A GIANT - ERIC INEKE
“After more than 40 years the time had come for me to do a tribute to one of the masters of Bebop and certainly one of my teachers: Mr Dexter Gordon, one of the giants of the tenor saxophone. The year was 1972 and I was 24 years old when I was given the opportunity to play my first gig with him, thanks to promoter Wim Wigt.
It was the beginning of a 2 month tour through The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany as a member of the trio of bebop master, pianist Rein de Graaff with Henk Haverhoek on bass. For all three of us it was one of the greatest learning experiences you can get. Dexter knew what he wanted. It was also the first time in my life that I experienced what it is to play with a soloist whose way of phrasing is behind the beat. I just had to stay right on top and the magic worked.....For me playing with Dexter was a lesson in sound and swing.
Since that tour in 1972, I worked on and off with Dexter until 1977. I have great memories of the concert at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 1973 when we were the supporting act for singer Dionne Warwick. In that same year Rein, Henk and I flew with Dexter to Italy to perform at the famous Pescara Jazz Festival on the same bill with Miles Davis (with Keith Jarrett and David Liebman) and Horace Silver (with the Brecker Brothers).
I can't forget our only radio performance together with the great Gene Ammons for Dutch Public Radio. The concert we did in The Hague (as far as I remember it was above a laundry), the place was packed and Dexter was in top form. The piano player was Rob Agerbeek, subbing for Rein who was not available due to other obligations. Luckily that concert was recorded and released on a double LP called All Souls (Yes, it was on November 2nd, 1972, All Souls Day) now unfortunately out of print.....
The last tour I did with Dexter was in 1977, after he made his glorious comeback in New York. He still had this obligation to Wim Wigt before he went back to the USA. Wim hired the great Spanish piano player Tete Montoliu, Rob Langereis on bass and me to do a week long tour in Holland and Germany. I wish I could do it all over again.
The last time Dexter and I met was in 1983 during the North Sea Festival where he performed with his great quartet. I just finished my own performance in another room and ran up the stairs to catch Dexter backstage. The show was already over and Dexter was on his way to the hotel. He was already near the door at the end of this long corridor. I called out his name, he turned around, he smiled and yelled out loud: "Ineke, S.O.S, Same Old Shit!!".
Thank you so much Dexter for giving me the experience of a lifetime!”