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Jazz Feature of Feb.14:Joe Gordon:"Lookin' Good!".
Trumpeter and composer Joe Gordon is the Jazz Feature for tonight's show. This was only his second album under his own name and sadly his final document. The date was issued on Contemporary Records and is called "Lookin' Good!" and features eight of Joe's tunes. Joseph Henry Gordon was born in Boston on May 15, 1928 and died in a house fire in his adopted home town of Los Angeles on November 4, 1963. Joe's recorded history and output is rather small for a musician of this large talent. In Boston, he played with all the best local players (Charlie Mariano, Dick Twardzik, Jaki Byard, Serge Chaloff etc) and was a first-call Jazz trumpeter. He worked with saxophonist Georgie Auld, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton and others as well and moved to New York in 1954 where he worked and recorded with Art Blakey in a pre-Messengers quintet with altoist Gigi Gryce and pianist Walter Bishop Jr. Joe made his first album ("Introducing Joe Gordon") at this time with Charlie Rouse, Blakey, Junior Mance etc. Joe later played with Dizzy Gillespie's great band in 1956-7 and Dizzy even gave Joe the solo on "A Night in Tunisia".....a real honour for Mr. Gordon.
Eventually Gordon headed west and settled in Los Angeles where he was welcomed to the Jazz community and became a first-call Jazz trumpeter there. He recorded with Harold Land, Thelonious Monk, Barney Kessel and became part of drummer Shelly Manne's great quintet. It was through this association that Joe came to record this date as he had recorded extensively with Shelly for Contemporary Recods.
Joe Gordon came to Vancouver to play a week-end at the original Cellar in 1959 and peeled the paint off the walls! There is a nice photo of Joe on opening night on this site. Go to the home page and scroll to "The Reading Room" and find the link to The Original Cellar Jazz Club. I was there on opening night and Joe was about half and hour late (the first set was always at 10pm) and the rhythm section (a very young Jerry Fuller on drums, Seattle pianist, Bob Nixon and bassist Freddie Schreiber) was getting jumpy in anticipation and of course, there was no rehearsal for the gig. Joe arrived and headed to the washroom and was there for 10 minutes then he emerged and hit the stage. He apologized for his tardiness and took off his suit jacket, loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves and unpacked his horn. He played a quick warm-up scale and turned to the band and called Tadd's Dameron's "Our Delight" and snapped off the tempo...fast! In those days, if you didn't know your Jazz standard tunes then you had no right to be on the bandstand. Smoke poured from his horn and Joe blew the house down with an extra long set. It was a major thrill to hear music on this level for me and everyone else in the packed house and we were proud of the rhythm section who worked hard and kept up with Joe.
The Feature album was done in 1961 in L.A. and Joe put together a fine quintet of excellent unknown players save for bassist Jimmy Bond. Dick Whittington plays piano, Milton Turner on drums (Milton played with Phineas Newborn Jr. when the great pianist visited Vancouver and performed at the Harlem Nocturne) and last but not least was the great and sadly unsung alto saxophonist, Jimmy Woods. Jimmy was one of the most original and unique voices of the alto and he makes his recording debut here. Jimmy later recorded two exceptional records for Contemporary later on. More about Jimmy next time...he had a very interesting career. The tunes are all Joe Gordon's and a couple have some humorous titles like "Terra Firma Irma" and "You're the Only Girl in the Next World For Me" and "Non-Viennese Waltz Blues". This is an exciting and creative recording and showed new depth and originality in this fine trumpeter. Sadly it was his final statement.
Joe continued to work steadily in Los Angeles and despite having a substance abuse history was always reliable and ready to take care of musical business. Joe lived in an apartment in the Venice Beach area of LA and came home after a gig and fell asleep in bed with a lit cigarette on November 4, 1963......he died in the fire he had accidentally set. Tonight's Jazz Feature is a fine musical legacy of a musician who deserved more attention.
The Joe Gordon Feature will be heard shortly after 11pm. I'll also have another musical tribute to Black History Month with something musical and political and also a couple of items celebrating St. Valentine's Day. Join me right at 9pm from the start.....see you then.
Gavin Walker's The Jazz Show is heard Mondays 9PM to midnight on CITR 101.9 FM and online.
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