February 27, 1923, Los Angeles – April 25, 1990
Body and Soul
Dexter Gordon was an American bop tenor saxophonist.
As a youth, Gordon played the clarinet and alto saxophone, but the improvising of Lester Young inspired him to play the tenor saxophone exclusively. He gained early experience in bands led by Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Billy Eckstine, and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who also influenced Gordon’s music. While serving a prison term for narcotics-related charges he made his acting debut in the film Unchained (1955).
Lady Bird Belgium, 1964
After his release he composed for and played and acted in a Los Angeles production of Jack Gelber’s play The Connection (1960) in the early 1960s and recorded albums such as Go! and A Swingin’ Affair that are usually considered his major works. He then lived in Europe (1962–76), recording and touring frequently, though rarely to America. His acting role as a self-destructive bebop saxophonist in the 1986 film Round Midnight won him an Academy Award nomination and a Grammy for Best Soundtrack; he also appeared in the film Awakenings (1990).
Dexter Gordon was named a member and Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters in 1986 by the Ministry of Culture in France.