Dexter Gordon's new album, "American Classic," is his best in years. He brought the album's rhythm section and several of its tunes to Blues Alley last night. The rhythm trio displayed a remarkable rapport with Gordon as they adjusted to his every lull, pause, build-up and climax. The songs provided prominent melodies for Gordon to fill with his justly famous lush tone. His phrases were the length of lyric lines; his inflections were as much dramatic as musical; his sound was intimate and romantic.
Wearing a leopard-skin vest, the tall saxophonist introduced "Skylark" -- the Johnny Mercer & Hoagie Carmichael ballad--by reciting the lyrics in his husky voice. He then brought those sentiments to life with warm, buttery saxophone phrases that seemed to twist at the end with longing. Pianist Kirk Lightsey then extended the mood with a fluid piano solo that carefully opened the melody's possibilities without losing the tune. Gordon's own "Sticky Wicket" was a mid-tempo swing tune with a quickly memorable melody that framed Gordon's sassy monologue. The quartet closed the set with the older "Backstairs," a bebop rouser that climaxed with a very physical drum solo by Eddie Gladden.
The Dexter Gordon Quartet will be at Blues Alley through Sunday.