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Jazz Feature for July 7: Charlie Rouse & Red Rodney:"Social Call".
Two legendary hornmen with long histories in Jazz are featured together with a great rhythm section in this minor classic done in early 1984 when both were still at the height of their playing powers. Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and trumpeter Red Rodney co-lead the group with Albert Dailey on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and a young Kenny Washington on drums in a program of infrequently played Jazz originals by Miles Davis, Gigi Gryce and Tadd Dameron plus a ballad (Darn That Dream) and an updated original by altoist Bobby Porcelli based on 'What is This Thing Called Love' named "Greenhouse" all with arrangements by trumpeter Don Sickler who manages to make this group sound like a working band. The album is called "Social Call" after the Gryce composition.
Charlie(Charles) Rouse was born in Washington D.C. on April 6, 1924 and died of lung cancer on Nov. 30, 1988. Rouse, who came to Jazz fame in his eleven years with Thelonious Monk (1959-70) was on the scene much longer than most people think. He was with the legendary Billy Eckstine band when Bird, Stitt, Leo Parker and Dizzy were a part of it in 1944 and then with Gillespie when he formed his first (ill-fated) big band in 1945. Rouse made his first recordings with Tadd Dameron and the great Fats Navarro in 1947. He played with Duke Ellington in 1949-50 and Basie in 1950. After conquering some drug problems due to unemployment and depression he hooked up with hip trombonist Bennie Green in 1955 and began an association with the great master of the Jazz french horn, Julius Watkins with a group called 'Les Jazz Modes' (1956-59) and also played with drummer Buddy Rich's small group (1959). Rouse also established himself on the New York freelance scene and popped up on various recordings including being part of drummer Arthur Taylor's band, "Taylor's Wailers". It was on a Prestige record date with the Wailers (Feb.1957) that Rouse and Monk met up. Two Monk tunes were to be recorded and Arthur Taylor invited Monk to the recording studio to supervise the interpretation of his pieces. Trumpeter Donald Byrd and altoist Jackie McLean who were the other hornmen on the date struggled with Monk's tunes but Rouse had no problems with them and Monk kept Rouse in mind as he liked Rouse's sound and angular approach. When Coltrane left Monk to rejoin Miles, Johnny Griffin took his place and when Griffin left to persue his own career, Rouse was given the job with Monk and the rest is history
After leaving Monk, Rouse actually stopped playing for a couple of years and studied acting but in the mid-seventies resumed playing with a new freshness while retaining his distinctive sound. In 1982, Rouse, along with drummer Ben Riley, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Charles (Buster) Williams formed "Sphere" which began as a Monk tribute band. Rouse, who had always been somewhat underrated was re-discovered and given status as an important component in Modern Jazz History. Rouse played well right up to the time of his death and although he recorded few albums under his own name......all are worth looking for.
Trumpeter Red Rodney's story is a bit more complex. Robert Rodney Chudnick was born in Philadelphia on September 27, 1927 and died in New York on May 27, 1994. Rodney began playing professionally in 1942 with Jerry Wald's big band and stayed with the big bands (Jimmy Dorsey, Elliot Lawrence, Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman etc) developing his chops and modernizing his concept from a Harry James style to a Dizzy Gillespie/Fats Navarro mode. He caught the ear of Charlie Parker and became Bird's regular front line partner replacing Kenny Dorham in 1949. Rodney stayed with Parker, on and off for three years. Rodney acquired a heroin habit during those years which lingered for nearly two decades. Red spent time in jail and rehab (which didn't work) but because he was a bright guy and an astute businessman managed to work in "commercial" (ie non-Jazz) contexts playing and booking 'society bands' (weddings, bar mitzvahs, frat parties) and working in Las Vegas show bands and occasionally recording a few very fine Jazz recordings during this period. However it was mostly a case of "whatever happened to Red Rodney?" during this time. Drug addiction, dental problems following an altercation with a drug cop....failed attempts at reconstructive surgery and in 1972, a stroke which would have dealt an ordinary person perhaps the final blow only enhanced Rodney's survival instincts. In 1973, clean and sober he began recording again and re-established himself as one of the leading exponents of classic bebop trumpet playing. He re-united with his old friend, multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, with whom he recorded in 1957 and for three years co-led a fine band with Ira. Rodney never stopped moving forward and continued to update his playing. His role as a consultant in the movie "Bird" helped Red Rodney secure a spot in the Down Beat 'Hall of Fame' shortly before his passing. Red shines on tonight's Feature.
Pianist Albert Dailey was born in Baltimore on June 16, 1938 and died young in New York of AIDS on June 26, 1984 just five months after the Feature recording was done. Dailey was a great pianistic talent who was sought after by many leaders such as Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Art Blakey, Woody Herman. A beautiful album of duets with the great Stan Getz called "Poetry" put Albert's name at the forefront but unfortunately the album came out after Albert had passed away. Like so many musicians of previous generations, it was drugs that were responsible for Dailey's demise.
Cecil McBee is in reality one of the world's great Jazz bassists and remains active to this day along with drummer Kenny Washington who is a true "keeper of the flame." Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey are all part of the Washington style.
Five Jazz masters perform tonight's Feature on the album "Social Call" at 11pm but be sure to join me for the whole show starting at 9pm.......see you then.
Gavin Walker's The Jazz Show is heard Mondays 9PM to midnight on CITR 101.9 FM and online.
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