The late Dexter Gordon’s voluminous tenor saxophone tone and languid muscular lines were forged in 1940s Californian modern jazz. But narcotics blew his blend of big band jazz, showboating R&B and late-night modernism off course. It took more than a decade for his promise to mature into the commanding presence here captured lighting up Copenhagen’s Jazzhus Montmartre in 1964.

The album is in part based on a telecast of recordings made at the club. Unexpectedly, this first-time release starts with a bass solo fading in. Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, then only 18 and already the go-to bassist for visiting Americans, is impressive, but it is the saxophonist’s swaggering exchanges with house-drummer Alex Riel that stand out.

An oddity comes next, “Big Fat Butterfly”, featuring a rare tongue-in-cheek Dexter Gordon vocal. But the meat of the track, and indeed the album, is unadulterated sax-and-rhythm quartet modern jazz played by a master palpably at ease and playing at the top of his game. The seven songs presented include a sultry bossa reading of “Manhã De Carnival”, an up-tempo blues and the swinging “I Want More”. “Misty” is the ballad, with tenor sax relishing every note, and the album closes with the Gordon original “Cheese Cake” — “the kind you eat” announces the saxophonist.

The leader’s articulate phrasing and stream of invention never let up and the fluent Catalan pianist Tete Montoliu ripples over a well-crafted rhythm section with equal composure and intelligence.

Around the time this recording was made, Gordon was interviewed in Downbeat, the US jazz magazine — the American had been based in Europe since a 1962 Ronnie Scott’s residency. European audiences are “more discerning” and “dig beneath the surface”, he said, adding “I am very rarely conscious of colour here in Europe. Once in a while, but it’s very rare.”

It was an assessment that encouraged him to remain in Europe for 14 years, regularly delivering relaxed, intense and inventive performances like this.

★★★★☆

‘Montmartre 1964’ is released by Storyville