JazzCorner.com is the largest portal for the official websites of hundreds of jazz musicians and organizations. New features on JazzCorner include the jazz video share where you can upload and share jazz and blues videos, JazzCorner Jukebox, surf the net with Jazz always on, submit your latest jazz news, and check out what's hot at JazzCorner's Speakeasy, the busiest bulletin board for jazz. Be the first to know where Jazz artists are performing in our gigs section, and be sure to listen to our podcasts with established and up and coming jazz musicians in our Innerviews section.


ArrangerBassBig BandsBlogsBookingBroadcastersCampsCelloConsultingDrumsEducationEventsFestivalsFilmFluteGroupsGuitarHarmonicaManagementOrganOrganizationsPercussionPianoProducingPublicityPublishingRadio PromotionRecord CompaniesRecording StudiosSaxophoneTromboneTrumpetTubaVibesVocalsWriters

About JazzCorner:

Contact Us
Privacy Policy


JazzCorner News:

Submit News
Share |

(Published: January 23, 2019)

"Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon" is an easy-to-read, well-written, superbly documented, much-anticipated book about the "King of The Tenor Bebop Saxophone Players," the great legendary reedman, Los Angeles native, Dexter Keith Gordon (1923-1990), aka "Society Red," "Big Red" and "The Big Red Machine." He was well-known for his strong powerful smoothly flowing sound on the saxophone, the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice. This masterpiece of a book is written by Mr. Gordon's third and last wife-Maxine Gordon, who made a promise to him before he died in 1990 that she would finish a book he had been writing and working on for years. She has written a finely-tuned, smartly edited oral history and biography, which took her several years to complete. Ms. Gordon, who honored Gordon's request that she go back and finish college, was wise enough to write it in the first person and even wiser to add in Dexter's quotes as well as words from other jazz personalities and friends, like the two supreme reedmen, Jimmy Heath (who called Dexter "The Big Red Machine") and Sonny Rollins.

One unique thing about the book is that it makes you feel like you are there with her listening to her talk, about her time in the jazz world with some of the best musicians on earth. But just when you get used to her writing like an excited jazz fan, she easily switches to a keen researcher and a solid scholar. The book is full of fresh, newly-founded footnotes, has a selected bibliography and an index. She gives a fascinating history of Dexter's ancestors and an interesting, revealing description of post-slavery African-American life in the Northwestern and Western states. Maxine was able to trace the saxophonist's lineage to Madagascar, find out that he was a descendant of a Buffalo Soldier and that Dexter came from what she called "an uncommon family."

She writes: "Dexter's story weaves its way through Madagascar and France. through Canada, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Dakota and Wyoming Territories, and to the city of Los Angeles at the turn of the twentieth century. The family includes doctors, musicians, a famous military hero and a locally legendary barber."

Another highlight of the biography was her observation of how jazz musicians respect each other and how much they enjoyed being together. She reveals that Dexter had long-lasting friends, some who were not musicians, some of who were musicians, like the bassist Charles Mingus who was raised in Los Angeles. According to the book, whenever Dexter and Mingus would meet, they would talk for hours. Mingus wrote a book titled "Beneath The Underdog" written in the third person in which he writes about visiting a Tijuana, Mexico whorehouse.

This reviewer recalls interviewing Dexter in the late 1970s, and asking him was he ever going to write a book? "Yeah," he replied, smiling. "But, it won't be about no Tijuana" He was right. "Sophisticated Giant" is a classic, a story of a survivor, a role model and an American hero. He was more than a musician who was, as he once said, " who was born in Los Angeles, whose father was a doctor, went on the road with Lionel Hampton when he as a teenager, recorded on Dial and Savoy Records, had a drug problem, went to jail, went to Europe, came back, made a movie, got nominated for an Oscar." The book also plainly asks what is sure to intrigue scholars---How ‘uncommon' was his family and how many more existed that we don't know about?

But, "Sophisticated Giant" is, most of all, a clear look into the world of jazz thievery. It reveals how the musicians had been robbed of royalties for years. It also shows that there was a corrupt system set up to make some folks filthy rich, but not the musicians. According to the book, Dexter was no exception. Throughout his career, he was victimized by these blood suckers. It wasn't until late in his life that he began to become less of a victim. Thus, the biography acts as a guide for those who want to become a jazz musician and begs the questions-Is that still the case today? Does the beat go on?

More Information: http://https://www.maxinegordon.com

Submitted By:

Email Address:


History :: Contact Us :: Privacy Policy

© 1996-2021 JazzCorner