Considered one of the world’s greatest tenor saxophonists, jazz legend Dexter Gordon (1923-1990) was once quoted as saying, “Jazz to me is a living music. It’s a music that since its beginning has expressed the feelings, the dreams, hopes, of the people.” The Library of Congress has taken steps to ensure the survival of Gordon’s musical heritage by acquiring more than a thousand items from his career spanning more than five decades.
The collection comprises a wide range of Gordon’s work from all phases of his career. Consisting primarily of sound recordings, the collection also includes interviews and items from Gordon’s film and television appearances.
The Library will celebrate the acquisition of this invaluable record of Gordon’s cultural legacy in a special program at 10:30 am on Friday, April 16, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.
The featured speaker will be Maxine Gordon, whose academic career as an archivist and historian was shaped by her husband’s request to preserve his works. “It was Dexter Gordon's wish to have his collection housed at the Library of Congress,” she said. “We want people to know what the Library is doing in support of jazz.”
Maxine Gordon, who is working on her doctorate in history at New York University, is the senior interviewer and jazz researcher at the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham University. She has written on various aspects of jazz and is currently writing a biography about her husband and his legacy.
Items from the collection will be on display at the event. Among them will be a short video of Dexter Gordon in Europe, which features his last public performance. In addition, unreleased gems of the iconic saxophonist’s work will be showcased.
“With the acquisition of the Dexter Gordon Collection, the Library has secured the recorded legacy of one of the great jazz saxophonists,” said Eugene DeAnna, head of the Library’s Recorded Sound Section. “Most of these great recordings exist only on what are now obsolete formats, so our job will be to catalog and digitally preserve them to archival standards at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, making them accessible to listeners in our Capitol Hill reading room while sustaining them for posterity.”
Dexter Gordon was born in Los Angeles on Feb. 27, 1923. He performed with Lionel Hampton’s and Louis Armstrong’s bands in the 1940s, but soon distinguished himself as a key player in the emerging be-bop style. In the late 1940s, his recorded saxophone duels with fellow tenorman Wardell Gray, such as “The Chase” and “The Hunt,” served notice that a major new jazz stylist had emerged. Gordon was considered a jazz innovator who influenced numerous musicians, including John Coltrane.
Gordon’s illustrious career carried him around the world, climaxing with his return to the United States for an historic homecoming at New York’s Village Vanguard and his participation in the White House concert staged by President Jimmy Carter in June 1978. He also left his mark in motion pictures. In 1987, he was nominated for an Academy Award as actor in a leading role for his performance in “’Round Midnight.” A screening of the film has been scheduled at 7:00 pm on April 19 in the Mary Pickford Theater as part of the Library’s Jazz Film Series.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov. The Library’s audio-visual collections are preserved at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (loc.gov/avconservation).
The name, likeness and music of Dexter Gordon is represented for merchandising, licensing and marketing worldwide, in all categories, by New York based LicenseBox, A MODA Entertainment Company (modaentertainment.com).