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DEXTER GORDON: MORE THAN YOU KNOW

Denmark, 1996 (MIFF 1997, All That Jazz)

Director: Donald McGlynn

Donald McGlynn has developed documen­tary portraiture of jazz musicians to a fine art. Dexter Gordon - More Than You Know is his latest exemplary effort. Gordon is the transitional fig­ure between the great classical tenor saxophone styles of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young in the 1930's and modern approaches; he is the artistic godfather and inspiration for the genera­tion which includes John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. Along with Duke Ellington and Young, Gordon is also one of the great origi­nal sources of hipness, the presentation of self as pure style, as the film's abundant archival interview footage shows.

More Than You Know documents Gordon's life from his first major job - with the Lionel Hamp­ton band at the end of the 1930s - until his death in 1990. One of jazz's great expatriates, Gordon spent the last decades of his life in Copenhagen, pursuing his music as always. Unlike meteoric but self-destructive artists, his life centres on the craft and the pure, continuous hard work jazz requires. A striking figure, it's sur­prising the movies waited so long to fully discov­er Gordon. Included in the documentary are selections from his screen test for 'Round Mid­night (Gordon's first remark is to ask: "Who's my leading lady?"), plenty of his big sound tenor playing (including his trademark Soy Califa): and his a capeila reading of Polka Dots and Moonbeams as found poetry. A film with tremendous appeal for both long-term fans and the uninitiated.

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