Bob Gordon, born on June 29, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, and passing away on August 28, 1955, was an American jazz baritone saxophonist known for his work in the cool jazz style. He left an indelible mark on the jazz scene despite his short career, which was tragically cut short due to a car accident at the age of 27.
Gordon grew up in a musical family, with his father playing saxophone and his mother being a pianist. He started playing the saxophone at an early age and quickly gravitated towards the baritone sax. He moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and became immersed in the West Coast jazz scene. Gordon’s playing style was characterized by a rich tone and a melodic approach, which made him a sought-after musician among his peers.
In his short career, Bob Gordon worked with several prominent jazz musicians and bands, including Shorty Rogers, Stan Kenton, Gerry Mulligan, and Chet Baker. He also played in the bands of Shelly Manne, Maynard Ferguson, and others. Gordon’s collaborations with fellow saxophonist Jack Montrose resulted in several notable recordings, including “Arranged/Played/Composed by Jack Montrose” (1954) and “Bob Gordon and Jack Montrose Quintet” (1955).
Gordon’s tenure with the Chet Baker Quartet was significant, as he played a key role in shaping the group’s sound during its formative years. He also recorded with other renowned artists, such as Zoot Sims, Red Norvo, and Barney Kessel.
Though his career was brief, Bob Gordon’s impact on the West Coast jazz scene was substantial. His melodic, lyrical style and warm tone continue to influence baritone saxophonists today. The jazz community mourned his untimely death in 1955, but his musical legacy continues to inspire and captivate listeners.
Page last updated 3/19/2023.