Dexter Keith Gordon
February 27, 1923 - April 25, 1990
Born in Los Angeles, California on February 27, 1923, Dexter Gordon began his career through collaborations with some of the most influential names in jazz including Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie. Through his trend setting work in the 1940s and due to the pervasiveness of his influence on his instrument, Dexter Gordon was regarded as the world’s first bebop tenor saxophonist. Key among his descendants were two of the major iconic saxophonists of the twentieth century, John Coltrane and 2011 Kennedy Center Honoree, Sonny Rollins. Gordon’s innovations would commence in influencing the development of modern music from the rise of his career in the 1940s to his passing in 1990.
Throughout the maturing stages of his career Dexter toured extensively and in 1962 he moved to Europe residing primarily in Copenhagen, Denmark and winning various awards and commemorative honors. He went on to record many legendary recordings for Blue Note Records, Prestige, and Columbia Records. In 1976, Dexter Gordon returned to the U.S. to a highly anticipated performance at New York City’s Village Vanguard, referred to as his “Homecoming” and recorded and released as his first Columbia Records debut under the same name. Gordon was nominated for several Grammy Awards and won Best Album and Best Jazz Artist of the Year for Downbeat Records in 1978 and 1979.
In 1986, Dexter Gordon was chosen for the leading role in a French film entitled Round Midnight (Warner Bros. 1986), produced by Irwin Winkler, directed by Bertrand Tavernier, and featuring French and American actors Francois Cluzet and Martin Scorsese. The film gained international praise and Gordon received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the leading role of Dale Turner, a fictional character loosely based on the lives of jazz legends Lester Young, Bud Powell, and Billie Holiday. Dexter was also awarded the title of Officier des Arts et Lettres (Officer of Arts and Letters) by the French Ministry of Culture. Dexter Gordon is the only jazz musician ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award.
Since Dexter’s death on April 25, 1990, Maxine Gordon, Gordon’s widow and former manager and producer, has administered his personal archival collection and musical legacy. In 2009, Ms. Gordon facilitated the acquisition of Dexter Gordon’s private collection with the Library Congress, which included more than 2,000 items of photography, recorded sound, video, and historical papers.