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  • Kirk Lightsey

How it all ended with Dexter

Before Maxine became Maxine Gordon, she was Maxine Greg who was with Woody Shaw and had a baby by him about the time when I made the record with Chet Baker that Dexter didn’t show up on. Dexter and Maxine had an affair and Maxine was traveling around with us when her other two groups, Woody Shaw’s group and Johnny Griffin’s group, were traveling around Europe at the same time, but Maxine was traveling with us. And it turned out that when we all go back to NY, Maxine and little Woody, the baby, had moved in with Dexter and Woody Shaw came home to a clean apartment and his band had not been paid for their last performances. I tried not to have an opinion about all of that. This was the sudden start of a different life for Woody Shaw indeed. Where before Woody often came to play with us in Dexter’s band at certain performances, suddenly all that changed. The lives of many musicians in both bands were changed at that point. I think that was the point when our band stopped working and that’s when David Eubanks went on another path. That’s when I started working with the Leaders.

Sometime after this, I don’t know how long it was, Maxine somehow came up with a tour in Morocco. I guess it was a week or so in Casablanca. We were playing for the King and his entourage. It was a very special event that kind of went sour somehow. They didn’t like the fact that Maxine, a white woman with red hair, was there taking care of business for Dexter Gordon and his group and they had to talk business with her. They ended up paying me the money for the group. We could have run away with the money and left them stranded in Casablanca, but of course we didn’t. I say we because of course I immediately shared this information with Eddie and the bass player Lonnie Plaxico was a new guy from Chicago who I didn’t have the heart to share this information with. Then Eddie Gladden and I decided to go straight to Maxine and let her straighten it out. She was so disappointed that this had happened and so grateful to us that we decided to be as family and give her the money. She was a great manager so I gave her every cent they had given me and let her deal it as she always did. And that was the last gig I remember playing with Dexter Gordon.

One afternoon sitting by the pool in Morocco, Maxine was feeling so alone and in distress about the situation she was facing because they weren’t giving her much respect and she chose to tell me about that. She explained that from a very young age she had decided to one day be together with Dexter Gordon.

It seems to have all ended when Maxine finally got together with Dexter Gordon. I mean she had told me by the pool in Morocco that her all time goal was to be together with Dexter Gordon. But that’s the point when the whole thing ended for the band.

Back in New York when Dexter was working on the movie “Round Midnight,” he didn’t call me for the gig. There was a pecking order and a placement in NY at the time. There were people in line for that gig before me. Herbie Hancock and Cedar Walton . . .. So many fingers. For the movie, of course, I had been playing for five years with Dexter, so I was on the list. But I wasn’t high enough up in the pecking order. For the movie or the pecking order.

After we got back to New York from Morocco, everything seemed to change. It was kind of an explosion of things happening at the same time. Maxine was the mother of three bands that were traveling all over the world. We were on all the tours. Sometimes one and sometimes all three were on the same tours.

Then I began to work with the Leaders and at Bradley’s and Zinno's. I was playing a lot with my own trio because Dexter had an off period when we weren’t working and we could explore and develop other things. And I was doing a lot of other things at the time, recording other projects and playing a lot with Jerry Gonzales and Santi Debriano on bass. Leaving Dexter’s then was a real transitional period for me.

I learned a lot working for five years with Dexter. The way he could handle timing; he was a master of timing-tension and release. His relaxed manner and way of dealing with things. He just relaxed and played himself. He was one of a kind.

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