Dexter Gordon: It’s You or No One


It’s You or No One


Dexter Gordon (tenor sax)


Homecoming – Live at the Village Vanguard (Columbia CD 46824)

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Dexter Gordon (tenor sax), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Ronnie Matthews (piano), Stafford James (bass), Louis Hayes (drums).

Composed by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne


Recorded: Village Vanguard, NYC, December 11-12, 1976


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

After thirty-plus years in the business with a respected yet somehow undervalued reputation, Dexter Gordon received an astounding hero’s welcome upon his return engagement to the United States with a week-long run at the Village Vanguard in December 1976. Seemingly all at once, the jazz world realized that there weren’t many musicians whose resumes were as entirely representative of jazz history as Gordon’s—from swing to bop to hard-bop, from America to Europe and now back to America again. From December ’76 on, the jazz community, filled with many new faces who were just kids when Gordon last resided in America, made up for lost time by celebrating Gordon’s life and music.

The playing on “It’s You or No One” is emotional and raw. One could almost sense that the Vanguard might not have felt this kind of energy for a quite a few years. Backed by Woody Shaw and his working band at the time, which featured the propulsive drummer Louis Hayes, Gordon’s playing is fun and witty—and his bop lines are infused with an excited grittiness not heard so strongly since his early bop recordings. Shaw is in top form here as well, displaying such effortless talent that another review of this track could rightly focus on Shaw’s sustaining impact on the post-bop trumpet world. But it’s Gordon’s party, and his solo here encapsulates the classic up-tempo Gordon bop style with his never-ending focus on improvisations with clear beginnings, middles, and ends. As legend (or the original liner notes) has it, Charles Mingus showed up to one of the rehearsals for this engagement and declared to Dexter: “you’re gonna be teachin’ New York some stuff, man. Some lessons.” He did indeed.

Reviewer: Eric Novod

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