Dexter Gordon, ‘Night Ballads, Montreal, 1977’

The storehouse of unreleased jazz concert recordings seemingly goes on forever. The “new” one from Dexter Gordon is a masterpiece. “Night Ballads, Montreal, 1977,” culled from four nights at The Rising Sun, showcases the tenor saxophonist’s prowess on slow numbers. Gordon's quartet — with pianist George Cables, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Eddie Gladden — uses four standards (“Lover Man,” “You’ve Changed,” “Old Folks,” and “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”) as vehicles for improvisation. Each tune runs 16 to 20 minutes, yet none flags or meanders. Gordon’s breathy, sonorous style is in full blossom, and the crowd appreciates it. “All right!” someone shouts as Gordon begins the theme of “Lover Man.” As the minutes wind on in each tune, he veers farther from the melody, and he sprinkles in quotes from other tunes (I swear I hear a snippet of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” in “Lover Man”). Just as impressive are Cables’s unhinged, unaccompanied solos. The fifth member of this quartet is the audience. You feel as though you’re in a jazz club. (Out now) STEVE GREENLEE


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