An American jazz tenor saxophonist and actor. He is considered one of the first bebop tenor players.
A famous photograph by Herman Leonard of Gordon smoking a cigarette during a set at the Royal Roost in New York City in 1948 is one of the most iconic images in the history of jazz.
He played clarinet from the age of 13, before switching to saxophone (initially alto, then tenor) at 15. While still at school, he was playing in bands with such contemporaries as Chico Hamilton and Buddy Collette.
Between 1940 and 1943, Gordon was a member of Lionel Hampton's band, playing in a saxophone section alongside Illinois Jacquet and Marshall Royal.
In 1943 he made his first recordings under his own name, alongside Nat Cole and Harry Edison.
During 1943-44 he featured in the Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson bands, before joining Billy Eckstine.
By 1945, Gordon had left the Eckstine band and was resident in New York, where he was performing and recording with Charlie Parker.
Gordon was saxophonist for the L.A. production of the Jack Gelber play The Connection' in 1960, replacing Jackie McLean.
He spent 15 years in Europe, mostly in Paris and Copenhagen, where he played regularly with fellow expatriate jazzmen such as Bud Powell, Ben Webster, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Drew, Horace Parlan and Billy Higgins.
Gordon finally returned to the United States for good in 1976.
Gordon received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal in the movie Round Midnight as "Dale Turner".
Gordon died of kidney failure on April 25, 1990, at age 67.
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