- 'Round Midnight
- Body and Soul
- Berangers Nightmare
- Fair Weather
- Una Noche Con Francis
- The Peacocks
- How Long Has This Been Going On
- Still Time
- Minuit Aux Champs-Elysees
- Chan's Song (Never Said)
- 'Round Midnight (Bonus Track)
- Dexter Gordon – Tenor
- Herbie Hancock – Piano
- Chet Baker - Trumpet & Vocal (track 4)
- Ron Carter, Pierre Michelot – Bass
- Billy Higgins, Tony Williams – Drums
- Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
- Bobby Hutcherson – Vibes
- Bobbie McFerrin - Vocals
- Lonette McKee – Vocal
- Wayne Shorter – Tenor and Soprano
- Cedar Walton – Piano
It was a minor miracle that this film ever got made and a major one that it
was successful! Jazz has always been a minority interest and a re-creation of
it's past, has to be very well done for the general public to take an interest.
In the case of this film it was well done and the acting ability of Dexter Gordon
was a big plus.
The story is based around the Paris jazz scene during the time when both Bud
Powell and Lester Young were residents there in the early 50's. Dexter Gordon
knew both men well and had frequently played with them. The film's producers
made a good decision not to try to use music from the past, but bring in the
very talented Herbie Hancock as Musical Director. It was he who created the
whole musical score, which is so much a part of the story of Dale Turner, an
ageing jazz musician, played by Dexter Gordon.
Dexter, who was 63 at the time the film was made, was six foot five and the
coolest dude on the jazz scene. Always suited and immaculately dressed he was
an impressive figure. He played with immense deliberation and often, in a trademark
way, slightly behind the beat. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries in jazz, he
came from a good family and had the benefit of a college musical education.
The opening track with its Bobby McFerrin vocal, has a haunting quality, it
is the films theme music. The next track Body and Soul is a feature for Dexter
and Herbie Hancock on Piano. 'Fair weather' features Chet Baker both playing
the trumpet and singing this Kenny Dorham composition. Like Dexter, Chet had
experienced problems with narcotics, which affected the careers of both men.
'Una Noche con Francis' has Wayne Shorter as well as Dexter on tenor, this one
did not get recorded on one of Dexter's better days. 'The Peacocks' is a difficult
tune to play or for that matter understand, but Wayne Shorter plays a good version
here on soprano, there is also a good reading of the tune from Herbie Hancock.
'How Long Has This Been Going On?' has a vocal from Lonette McKee with tenor
obligato from Dexter. Rhythm-A-Ning has him on home territory playing with trumpeter
Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton on keyboards, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams
on Drums. Strangely there is no chorus from Dexter. 'Still Time' is a Herbie
Hancock composition, the sleeve notes say that Dexter plays tenor, but I think
it is soprano played by Wayne Shorter! 'Minuit aux Champs Elysees,' a Henri
Renault theme, is played as a duet between Hancock and vibes man Bobby Hutcherson.
This is a very nice piece of work; the interaction between them is a joy to
the ears. Chan's Song brings back Bobby NcFerrin on vocal to create a sub theme.
In truth there is not a lot of playing from Dexter Gordon on this album and
the inclusion of the bonus track from a 1977 session at the Village Vanguard,
is very welcome. This version of 'Round Midnight gives a much better picture
of his real ability. Three years after the film was made Dexter died his lifestyle,
like that of a lot of jazz musicians from that era had been affected by drug
abuse. It makes his acting performance even more remarkable, considering that
in 1987, when the film was made he was already in poor health.
Dexter Gordon's influence on the tenor saxophone in jazz should not be underestimated.
He first came to prominence in the 1940's playing in big bands. His tenor battles
with Gene Ammons and Wardell Gray sparked many a concert for the Lionel Hampton
band. He spent most of the 1950's incarcerated for drug offences, but in the
1960's he played to rapturous audiences at the Village Vanguard in New York.
In 1962 a two-week booking at Ronnie Scott's in London turned into a two-month
booking and the word was out throughout Europe that Dexter was back and playing
well. He did the European Jazz Festival circuit and became a resident first
of Paris then Copenhagen. He went back to the US in the 70's and again was in
big demand, by the time he made this film his musical abilities may have been
on the wane, but without him there would not have been this outstanding film.
It was fitting that the film probably enabled him to spend the rest of his days
in more comfortable circumstances than might otherwise have been the case.
I recommend this album to all that love jazz and it's musicians