By Ed Enright | Published January 2019
With the publication of Sophisticated Giant, independent scholar Maxine Gordon has delivered on her promise to her late husband, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon (1923–’90), to complete the biography he began writing late in his life.
Maxine draws upon personal memories, artist interviews, business correspondence, extensive historical research and Dexter’s own prose to paint a multidimensional picture of the artist affectionately known as “Society Red.” Beyond the details of his musical career—including early stints in the bands of Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine, classic bebop recordings as a leader on Savoy and Blue Note, a dozen years spent living and playing in Europe, high-profile engagements upon his heroic return to the States in the ’70s and his Oscar-nominated, starring role in the 1986 film ’Round Midnight—the book reveals aspects of Dexter’s personal life that depict the man behind the music, ranging from the outrageously funny to the deadly serious.
Sophisticated Giant is peppered with Dexter’s voice, his witty quotes and extensive reflective notes, interspersed within Maxine’s informative narrative. Coinciding with the book’s release, Legacy Recordings has reissued a vinyl version of Dexter’s late-’70s all-star album of the same name (featuring Woody Shaw, Benny Bailey, Frank Wess, Slide Hampton, Wayne Andre, Howard Johnson, Bobby Hutcherson, George Cables, Rufus Reid and Victor Lewis), which was produced by Michael Cuscuna for Columbia.