Charlie Rouse Takin’ Care Of Business (Jazzland 1960)

Monk’s long-running sideman takes care of business on his own.

Charlie Rouse - Takin' Care Of Business


Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Earl May (bass), Art Taylor (drums)


on May 11, 1959 at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City


as JLP-19 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blue Farouq
Side B:
Pretty Strange
They Didn’t Believe Me

Aten-year stint in the group of Thelonious Monk ain’t chicken feed. This was the accomplishment of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and it speaks volumes about his skills, artistry and personality. Rouse was asked to join Monk at the start of 1959, the successor to the stint of Johnny Griffin and two short engagements of Sonny Rollins and former Monk associate John Coltrane. That’s a lot of tenor madness and a hell of a challenge. Nobody would’ve argued that Rouse is in the league of Coltrane and Rollins, nor would it have been easy to match the fire of The Little Giant. Indeed, for a lot of people, Charlie Rouse was a surprise pick, not least for a slew of young lions soliciting for the job, Wayne Shorter among them.

Rouse was already a veteran of sorts with a great track record, who had played in the bands of Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron and was a prolific sideman in the 50s. Preceding the Monk period, Rouse co-led the sophisticated group The Jazz Modes with French horn player Julius Watkins. After a nervous start, he got off well with The High Priest. It is said that Monk was particularly enamored by the genial, relaxed Rouse, which surely was, apart from his abilities, one of the reasons they gelled so well for such a long time. Rouse quickly adjusted to Monk’s focus on melodic improvisation.

Rouse’s contribution on Monk’s 5 By 5 record, sharing the frontline with Thad Jones, is especially spicy and belies the rigorous opinion that Rouse’s solo’s better be casually accepted, criticism ventured from his start with Monk and the kind that inclines to become myth and survive for numerous decades. It would be interesting as well to take a listen to Rouse the balladeer, predominantly his lush interpretation of When Sunny Gets Blue on We Paid Our Dues on Epic from 1961, a record that is equally divided between the groups of Rouse and Seldon Powell.

Takin’ Care Of Business may not be the most inspired of titles. Who didn’t take care of it? However, it’s a strong effort from a top-notch group that further includes trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist Walter Bishop Jr., bassist Earl May and drummer Art Taylor. Mitchell contributed Blue Farouq, a hip blues line that also is featured on organist Melvin Rhyne’s Organ-izing and Junior Cook’s Junior’s Cookin’. Interestingly, “204” in fact is Randy Weston’s wonderful waltz Hi-Fly, the initial version with a slightly differing melody. Rouse’s Upptankt (meaning what?) and Kenny Drew’s Weirdo provide the saucy bop contrast to the jaunty take on Jerome Kern composition They Didn’t Believe Me and Randy Weston ballad Pretty Strange – which indeed is pretty strange, certainly not your usual melody with a sequence that is somehow unresolved, moving in front of the bedroom window like a thin fog and rather intriguing in its own weird way.

Solid mainstream from a punchy band, Rouse flowing and with sustained, logical ideas and slightly edgy tones opposite Blue Mitchell’s sinuous, exuberant lines and Walter Bishop Jr.’s charged bop style. Turn-of-that-decade quintet stuff that merits plenty of attention.

Sonny Clark Leapin’ And Lopin’ (Blue Note 1961)

Find me a bummer moment in Sonny Clark’s discography and I’ll buy you a drink. But I won’t because it’s a fruitless search. One of the essential hard bop pianists, Clark had taste written all over him. His swan song as a leader, Leapin’ And Lopin’, includes some of his most enduring tunes and classiest performances.

Sonny Clark - Leapin' And Lopin'


Sonny Clark (piano), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Ike Quebec (tenor saxophone A2), Butch Warren (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)


on November 13, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as BLP 4091 in 1962

Track listing

Side A
Something Special
Deep In A Dream
Melody In C
Side B
Eric Walks
Midnight Mambo

Does it top 1958’s Cool Struttin’, Clark’s best known (and best-selling) album? A foolish question, perhaps. Brilliant Clark moments weren’t reserved for his leadership dates only but occured just as frequently when he appeared as a sideman for the myriad of fellow legends of the day, particularly for Blue Note, where Clark was a more than welcome pianist in his heyday of 1958-62.

Take his tremendously swinging and inspiring accompaniment and soloing on Dexter Gordon’s masterpieces Go and A Swingin’ Affair. Or that fabulous solo on Airegin from the sessions that would be released posthumously (for both of them) as Grant Green albums Nigeria (Airegin spelled backwards) and Oleo, wherein both musicians really get down with it. It’s a typical Clark mix of elegance and raw power.

I guess it’s this mix, steeped in the blues, that has kept luring musicians and incrowd into the Sonny Clark realm both during his lifetime and for decades thereafter. Clark, one of the most infamous jazz casualties, died from an overdose in New York City on January 13, 1963. To name but a few admirers, note that Bill Evans composed a touching tribute to Clark in 1963, the anagram NYC’S No Lark, and that John Zorn recorded Clark or ‘Clarkian’ tunes for years. 1985’s Voodoo is a well-known album of Zorn’s The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet.

Also very attractive are Clark’s long, fluent lines that often stretch over bars extensively. Like those your hear in Leapin’ And Lopin’s third cut, Melody For C, a shuffle that swings both smoothly and intensely, all the while showing enough eccentricity to make you laugh and leap sideways.

In the uptempo Something Special, a very attractive melody that, not unlike a Horace Silver tune, benefits from effective use of stop time, Clark leaves plenty of space as an accompanist for Charlie Rouse and Tommy Turrentine to freely swing their way through the changes. The manner in which Rouse starts his solo, building on the melody, suggests the influence of Thelonious Monk, whose outfit Rouse had been part of since 1959. Voodoo is jazzified blues at its very best: intricate enhancements on the blues form coupled with heartfelt blowing. It’s the one track that would fit right in on Cool Struttin’.

The abovementioned tracks are accompanied by Deep Dream, a ballad that combines wry wit with pathos (including Ike Quebec’s breathy tenor), bassist Butch Warren’s quirky, intricate Eric Walks and Midnight Mambo, a buoyant Tommy Turrentine composition. They round off the most diverse album in the brilliant pianist’s book.