Please join us for a conversation with Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (University of California Press, 2018). This unique combination of biography and memoir examines the life and legacy of tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon (1923–1990), one of the major innovators of modern jazz. Maxine Gordon completed the book that her late husband began, weaving his “solo” turns with her voice and a chorus of voices from past and present. Reading like a jazz composition, the blend of research, anecdote, and a selection of Dexter’s personal letters reflects his colorful life and legendary times.
Honest and searing, Sophisticated Giant penetrates Dexter Gordon’s cool exterior to reveal a three-dimensional man full of humor and wisdom, a figure who struggled to reconcile being both a creative outsider who broke the rules and a comforting insider who was a son, father, husband, and world citizen. This essential book is an attempt to fill in the gaps—not only those created by our misperceptions, but also those left by Dexter himself.
Maxine Gordon is an independent scholar with a lifetime career working with jazz musicians. As an oral historian and archivist in the fields of jazz and African American cultural history, her book, Sophisticated Giant, fulfills the promise she made to her late husband, jazz saxophonist and Academy Award nominated actor Dexter Gordon, to complete his biography.