Saxophonist Dexter Gordon, the “Sophisticated Giant” known for his velvet tone, elastic use of rhythm and gregarious stage presence, was born on this day in 1923. A pioneer of the jazz tenor saxophone, Gordon’s illustrious career spanned decades and transcended genres, from his early days in the swing bands of Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine to his final stage as a leader for up-and-coming musicians like Herbie Hancock and Woody Shaw.
Music alone couldn’t contain Gordon’s talent. Later in life, he also excelled as an actor. In 1987, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of an expatriate jazz saxophonist in Bertrand Tavernier’s film ‘Round Midnight. That same year, he won the Grammy Award for the Best Improvised Solo an album of tunes recorded for the film. The album’s title track — which features a young Hancock on piano — is our Song of the Day.