Tenor Saxophonist Dexter Gordon was known for being the first in many different categories. In additional to being one of the first saxophonists to musically take the be-bop traditions of Charlie Parker and transition them to the tenor saxophone, Gordon was also the first (and only) Jazz Musician to receive an Oscar nomination for his role in the classic film "Round Midnight."
Born in 1923 to a family that included a grandfather that served in the Spanish-American war and one of the first African-American physicians in Los Angeles, Dexter started playing clarinet at the age of 13, and ultimately switching first to alto saxophone and then tenor saxophone at 15. A few years later Gordon joined the great Lionel Hampton's band and began his career that would ultimately lead to performing with such jazz giants and Louis Armstrong, Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughn and Art Blakey. During the 1960's Gordon lived mainly in Europe performing mainly in Paris and Copenhagen alongside many other Americans taking up residence in Europe during that era.
After returning back to the United States in the mid-1970's, Gordon recorded several more albums proving that he was as great as ever and capitalizing on the resurgence in marketing acoustic jazz rather than a more electronic fusion that had occupied the early 70's. The movie "Round Midnight" would be Gordon's opportunity to showcase his ability as he played a starring role in the story of a jazz musician living overseas (something all too familiar with Gordon). His academy award nomination for best actor in 1986 remains the first and only jazz musician to receive such a nomination.
Only One Copy is Made and Given to the Queen of England
Inspired by meeting Queen Elizabeth II in 1958, American composer and bandleader Duke Ellington composed a suite of music in her honor. This historic meeting took place following a performance of the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Leeds Music Festival. As the reception progressed, Ellington was invited to speak with the royal delegation commenting to the Queen that she was so inspiring and something musical would result from this inspiration. The suite contains six movements, and was recorded in 1959. From this recording, just one pressing was made of the suite, and subsequently sent directly to Buckingham Palace and the Queen. Although the music was never commercially released during Duke's lifetime, it remained a unique composition and would be given life in the 1990's within a collection of other Ellington "Suite" compositions.
But the story of the "Queen's Suite" doesn't end here. In 2008 a young English jazz musician named Peter Edwards began his quest to transcribe the difficult compositions, put together an ensemble, and finally perform the "Queen's Suite" for the Queen. The project was so fascinating that a documentary filmmaker decided to take on the task of telling the story of this Inspirational meeting between one of America's most prolific composers and the Queen, and the music that resulted from this meeting.