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A Swingin' Affair (1962)

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Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon was on a roll in 1962 when he recorded A Swingin' Affair. Two days earlier he and this same quartet recorded his classic album Go!; the band included pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Billy Higgins. Gordon wrote two of the set's six tunes, the first of which, the Afro-Cuban-flavored "Soy Califa," is a burner. Higgins' drumming double-times the band as Gordon lays out the melody -- even his solo doesn't stray far from it and he returns to it repetitively. Clark vamps with beautiful minor-key chords that he then adds to his own solo, moving all around the lyric with his right hand. And Higgins and Warren are truly wonderful on this one. There are also three standards here. Gordon was always a master of them because his own approach to improvisation was essentially one of melodic invention. "Don't Explain" is ushered in by Clark stating the changes; Gordon's low and slow playing is romantic and sensual. On "You Stepped Out of a Dream," Gordon and Clark take the melody and invert it in the bridge; they turn it into a kind of groove as Higgins plays Latin-tinged rhythms throughout. Warren's "The Backbone" is a hard bop groover with a bossa nova flavor, as he and Gordon twin on the tune's head before Dex moves off into his solo. It's easily the best thing here. This is a hot hard bop band, playing a program that's relaxed and mostly upbeat; they even manage to stretch a bit. The Rudy Van Gelder Edition features fine sound but no bonus material. ~ Thom Jurek