GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He was among the most influential early bebop musicians, which included other greats such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell. Gordon’s height was 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm), so he was also known as “Long Tall Dexter” and “Sophisticated Giant”. His studio and performance career spanned over 40 years.Gordon’s sound was commonly characterized as being “large” and spacious and he had a tendency to play behind the beat. He was known for inserting musical quotes into his solos, with sources as diverse as “Happy Birthday” and well known melodies from the operas of Wagner.This is not unusual in jazz improvisation, but Gordon did it frequently enough to make it a hallmark of his style. One of his major influences was Lester Young. Gordon, in turn, was an early influence on John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Rollins and Coltrane then influenced Gordon’s playing as he explored hard bop and modal playing during the 1960s.Gordon was known for his genial and humorous stage presence. He was an advocate of playing to communicate with the audience, which was his musical approach as well. His improvisation was remarkably engaging and intelligent, but never gratuitously complex or unusual. It was always a conversation simultaneously delightful and intellectual. One of his idiosyncratic rituals was to recite lyrics from each ballad before playing it.A photograph by Herman Leonard of Gordon taking a smoke break at the Royal Roost in 1948 is one of the iconic images in jazz photography. Cigarettes were a recurring theme on covers of Gordon’s albums.Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the Bertrand Tavernier film Round Midnight (Warner Bros, 1986), and he won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist, for the soundtrack album The Other Side of Round Midnight (Blue Note Records, 1986). He also had a cameo role in the 1990 film Awakenings. In 2018, Gordon’s album Go (Blue Note, 1962) was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.Today in our History – February 27, 1923 – Dexter Gordon (February 27, 1923 – April 25, 1990) was born.Dexter Keith Gordon was born on February 27, 1923 in Los Angeles, California. His father, Dr. Frank Gordon, one of the first African American doctors in Los Angeles, arrived in 1918 after graduating from Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. Among his patients were Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. Dexter’s mother, Gwendolyn Baker, was the daughter of Captain Edward Lee Baker, Jr. one of the five African American Medal of Honor recipients in the Spanish–American War. Gordon played clarinet from the age of 13, before switching to saxophone (initially alto, then tenor) at 15. While still at school, he played in bands with such contemporaries as Chico Hamilton and Buddy Collette. Between December 1940 and 1943, Gordon was a member of Lionel Hampton’s band, playing in a saxophone section alongside Illinois Jacquet and Marshal Royal. During 1944 he was featured in the Fletcher Henderson band, followed by the Louis Armstrong band, before joining Billy Eckstine. The 1942–44 musicians’ strike curtailed the recording of the Hampton, Henderson, and Armstrong bands; however, they were recorded on V-Discs produced by the Army for broadcast and distribution among overseas troops. In 1943 he was featured, alongside Harry “Sweets” Edison, in recordings under Nat Cole for a small label not affected by the strike.During the 1980s, Gordon was weakened by emphysema. He remained a popular attraction at concerts and festivals, although his live appearances and recording dates would soon become infrequent.Gordon’s most memorable works from the decade were not in music but in film. He starred in the 1986 movie Round Midnight as “Dale Turner”, an expatriate jazz musician in Paris during the late 1950s based loosely on Lester Young and Bud Powell. That portrayal earned him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor. In addition, he had a non-speaking role in the 1990 film Awakenings, which was posthumously released. Before that last film was released he made a guest appearance on the Michael Mann series Crime Story.Soundtrack performances from Round Midnight were released as the albums Round Midnight and The Other Side of Round Midnight, featuring original music by Herbie Hancock as well as playing by Gordon. The latter was the last recording released under Gordon’s name. He was a sideman on Tony Bennett’s 1987 album, Berlin.Gordon died of kidney failure and cancer of the larynx in Philadelphia, on April 25, 1990, at the age of 67. On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Dexter Gordon among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.Gordon’s maternal grandfather was Captain Edward L. Baker, who received the Medal of Honor during the Spanish–American War, while serving with the 10th Cavalry Regiment (also known as the Buffalo Soldiers).Gordon’s father, Dr. Frank Gordon, M.D., was one of the first prominent African-American physicians and a graduate of Howard University.Dexter Gordon had a total of six children, from the oldest to the youngest: Robin Gordon (Los Angeles), California, James Canales (Los Angeles), Deidre (Dee Dee) Gordon (Los Angeles), Mikael Gordon-Solfors (Stockholm), Morten Gordon (Copenhagen) and Benjamin Dexter Gordon (Copenhagen), and seven grandchildren, Raina Moore Trider (Brooklyn), Jared Johnson (Los Angeles), and Matthew Johnson (Los Angeles), Maya Canales (San Francisco) and Jared Canales (San Francisco), Dexter Gordon Bogs (Copenhagen), Dexter Minou Flipper Gordon-Marberger (Stockholm).When he lived in Denmark, Gordon became friends with the family of the future Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, and subsequently became Lars’s godfather. Gordon was also survived by his widow Maxine Gordon and her son Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III.The earliest photographs of Gordon as a player show him with a Conn 30M “Connqueror” and an Otto Link mouthpiece. In a 1962 interview with the British journalist Les Tomkins, he did not refer to the specific model of mouthpiece but stated that it was made for him personally. He stated that it was stolen around 1952. The famous smoke break photo from 1948 shows him with a Conn 10M and a Dukoff mouthpiece, which he played until 1965. In the Tomkins interview he referred to his mouthpiece as a medium-chambered piece with a #5* (.090″ under the Dukoff system) tip opening. He bought a Selmer Mark VI from Ben Webster after his 10M went missing in transit. In a Down Beat magazine interview from 1977, he referred to his current mouthpiece as an Otto Link with a #8 (.110″ under the Otto Link system) tip opening. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!