Bertrand Tavernier's film " 'Round Midnight" was a real mess as a narrative, but it did contain an enchanting performance by Dexter Gordon and splendid music from a host of Blue Note Records veterans. Both the performance and the music were reprised at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Friday night as Gordon led a quintet that included three other musicians from the movie.
Cedar Walton opened the show by leading the rhythm section in a postbop original; his touch at the piano was fluid and graceful, if a bit unaggressive. Bobby Hutcherson then joined the trio. Relying heavily on his pedal, he built layered harmonies on his vibraphone and then hammered certain notes to send them ringing out. The real standout, though, was Billy Higgins, who played every inch of his small drum kit loudly and softly, sensually and provocatively, and never let the rhythmic momentum lapse. Buster Williams, the one member who wasn't in the movie, more than held his own on bass.
Gordon has often played much better than he did Friday night, but even on this relatively uninspired evening he remained a master of tone and structure on the tenor saxophone. If he never broke loose with the flights of imagination or the bursts of passion that he's capable of, at least his tone was always delightfully buttery and his improvisations always thoughtful.