As election day nears, many people are looking for ways to relieve the stress of political uncertainty. Some may find the recordings of the late jazz master Dexter Gordon — who excelled in turning chaos into beauty — helpful in coping with the anxiety of the final stretch.

Thirty years after his passing — as the country grapples the challenges of pandemic and politics — it may be time to revisit the recording legacy of this jazz giant. I first learned about Gordon in the 1970s when the country was torn by war, racial strife, urban decay, and the aftermath of Richard Nixon politics.

Like many Black teenagers growing up in Queens, N.Y., we had to navigate a city and school system under bankruptcy — and a police force that seemed to target people like me for sport. To get away, I applied to a New York state college as far from the city as possible, sight unseen.


I ended up at the State University College in Oswego. For a city kid, the small campus on Lake Ontario was an experience in isolation and adaptation. Discovering the bebop recordings of Dexter Gordon is what helped me and a buddy — a white kid from Buffalo — to keep it together.

The memories of those difficult days returned as I revisited Gordon’s music in these unsettled times. The 6-CD box set, “Dexter Gordon: 12 Classic Albums, 1947-1962,” is a repository of over 400 minutes of