Maxine Gordon is an independent scholar with a lifetime career working with jazz musicians. She is an oral historian and archivist in the fields of jazz and African American cultural history whose book Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (University of California Press, 2018) fulfills the promise she made to her late husband, the jazz saxophonist and Academy Award–nominated actor Dexter Gordon, to complete his biography.
Gordon is currently working on her next book, “Quartette: Four Women in Jazz, Stories from the Lives of Maxine Sullivan, Velma Middleton, Melba Liston, and Shirley Scott.” The book will be presented in a context that is described as “jazz geography,” using a close look at the element of place as a factor in the artists’ lives. Gordon will pursue archival research, searching all interviews in order to incorporate the artists’ voices in the work.
Gordon earned an MA in African diaspora history from New York University, where she received a Henry M. MacCracken Fellowship. In 2021, she was a resident fellow at the Dora Maar House, in Ménerbes, France. Sophisticated Giant, which was made possible by the Constance and William Withey Endowment Fund in History and Music, won a Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award from the ASCAP Foundation, taking home the Timothy White Award for Outstanding Music Biography.