I recently rewatched the movie Round Midnight, for which Dexter Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award. The story is taken from a nonfiction book on Bud Powell's life in Paris called Dance of the Infidels. In the 50s and 60s, many Americans took off to Europe. Many African Americans had extended stays because they were treated with more respect than they had been here in the USA. Like Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon also set up a base in Europe, but issued recordings made over there through the NYC located Blue Note label. He would also visit the states every once in a while to record. Each is recommended, including Doin' Allright, A Swingin' Affair and One Flight Up.
Mr. Gordon finally returned to USA for good in 1976, and continued to record on a regular basis. One of the standout later recordings was made here in North Beach at the sadly long gone Keystone Corner. There's a jazz mural there now. Mosaic Records put out a budget priced three disc set of all the recorded material from that residency-- well worth a listen.
Nearly twenty years ago, "Long Tall Dexter" (6'6") passed on. I had my first and only date with this blonde virgin that day, but I kept pulling Mr. Gordon's obit out of my back pocket thinking "he can't be dead." I had just watched him in Round Midnight. When the girl and I met for free oysters on the halfshell at El Rio in San Francisco on a beautiful warm April afternoon, I told her that I had something to tell her. I took out the newpaper, and showed her the obituary, explaining that if I seemed distracted, that it was because one of my musical heroes had just died. She determinedly said something to the effect of "That doesn't matter: Let's make out!"
I told her right then that I didn't think that things would work out between us, but that I'd be happy to walk her home.
Dexter Gordon still means a great deal to me. Watching the mid 60s footage recently released on DVD through Naxos' Jazz Icons series only solidifies his status as someone whose music has great bearing on me and will continue to until you see my obituary. He is still missed dearly.
Here is the trailer for Round Midnight:
And here is some footage of Gordon warming up and performing in Copenhagen in 1971: