Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It didn't take long for Dexter Gordon to warm up Tuesday night at the Showboat lounge. Opening what he says is his first Washington club appearance since a gig "with Trummy Young at some place on Pennsylvania Avenue" over 30 years ago, the tenor saxophonist came out blowing strong and hard and never let up.
Since most of the people in the crowd out in Silver Spring, where Gordon will be appearing through Sunday, knew him only by reputation, it made for a very impressive introduction. The 54-year-old horn man, a key figure in the bebop movement of the '40s but an expatriate based in Denmark since 1962, played everthing from ballads to the blues, all with a fluidity and finesse so remarkable that it's a wonder he hasn't been nicknamed Dextrous Gordon.
His is the calssic bebop sound, graceful and inventive, yet full of clever jokes and sudden twists and turns. Gordon can sound as breathy as need be on an old ballad like "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," which he introduced by reciting the lyrics, so that the audience could get a sense of what the song is about, or harsh and fierce on a reworking of "Jumpin' the Blues."
It is precisely that combination of technique and feeling that made Gordon an important influence on the young John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. They were entranced, as others have been, by Gordon's gargantuan tenor sound and his enormous range, both of which were used to best effect Tuesday night on a brightly winging reading of Horace Silver's "Strollin.'"
Gordon's work has long been available on records, the latest of which, "Homecoming," marks, he says, "the first time I've ever been on the charts." But what those records don't communicate is the combination of courtliness and humor that is so winning and essential a part of Gordon's stage presence.