Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ella at 100 by Will Friedwald

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The following appeared in the April 24, 2017 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

“In 1958, Frank Sinatra recorded Billy Strayhorn’s classic torch song “Lush Life”—or, rather, he attempted to. He got about halfway through it when he, in 21st-century speak, “pivoted” and decided, he declared loudly, to “put that one aside for about a year!” Upon hearing the incomplete take, one can only concur with the Chairman’s decision: This is far from a lost Sinatra masterpiece. Rather, it’s a lost Sinatra mistake.

Conversely, Ella Fitzgerald made three important recordings of “Lush Life” in three very different contexts: in 1957 with pianist Oscar Peterson, in 1973 with guitarist Joe Pass, and on a 1968 TV special with Duke Ellington —Strayhorn’s mentor and key collaborator—accompanying her on piano. Or was he? Careful analysis of the videotape by professional pianists reveals that even though it’s Duke on camera, the soundtrack accompaniment is probably actually being played by her regular accompanist at the time, Jimmy Jones.

Clearly, neither Sinatra nor Ellington was comfortable with “Lush Life”—even though Sinatra had sung many songs that were just as musically difficult (and intimately personal), and Ellington was closer to Strayhorn than anyone; he, of all people, should have been willing and able to play it.

And yet Ella Fitzgerald, whose centennial is being celebrated on the 25th of this month, boldly went where both Sinatra and Ellington feared to tread. Most performers are limited to various kinds of songs, and for the great ones that range is often very vast. We hear about a “Sinatra kind of song,” or a “ Judy Garland kind of song.” But you’ve never heard anyone speak of an “Ella Fitzgerald kind of song,” because there’s no such thing. She could and did sing everything.

In 1967-68, Fitzgerald made two of the most misguided albums of her career, “Brighten the Corner” and “Misty Blue,” which can be viewed as ill-advised attempts by the first lady of song to capture the markets of, respectfully, Mahalia Jackson and Ray Charles. The first has her doing traditional spirituals like “The Old Rugged Cross”; the second consists of country-and-western songs with lyrics like “this gun don’t care who it shoots.” Clearly, neither one is a Fitzgerald classic, but both are great in their own way—I don’t listen to them as often as I do “Ella in Berlin” or “Lullabies of Birdland,” but when I do play them I find that, to quote another C&W classic, I can’t stop loving them.

When Fitzgerald died in 1996, I was given the task of calling up her friends and musical associates for statements, and when I talked to one of her ex-husbands, bass virtuoso Ray Brown, to my surprise he quoted Bing Crosby’s famous line, “Man, woman, or child, Ella is the most!” I didn’t realize how appropriate that reference was at the time: In the 1930s, Crosby served as pop culture’s ultimate musical everyman, who sang it all—from “Pennies From Heaven” to “Rock of Ages” to “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” and everything in between. His successor, the singer who picked up that torch in the postwar era and carried it to the furthest extremes, was Fitzgerald. Producer-manager Norman Granz knew what he was doing when he selected her as the one singer to do the major series of songbook albums by every major American songwriter, and then to do whole albums of scat singing, blues, bossa novas, show tunes—casting a wider net than even such remarkable contemporaries as Sinatra and Charles, and singing it all magnificently.

Her performances of “Lush Life” are notable for other reasons: Fitzgerald is widely celebrated for her swinging and improvisation, but not enough attention is paid to her formidable abilities as a ballad singer. As Fitzgerald’s contemporary, Jo Stafford, pointed out to me, the first lady was concerned most of all with the melody, but she also was a major interpreter of lyrics. Some performances are more emotional than others, but she was especially forthcoming on her live concert albums and tapes of the 1960s. As numbers like “A House Is Not a Home” (from a 1969 performance in Montreux, Switzerland) prove, Fitzgerald could break your heart with a song any time she wanted to. It’s no surprise that when Matt Dennis wrote his saloon-song masterpiece “Angel Eyes,” the first person he brought it to was Fitzgerald.

What’s especially remarkable is that Fitzgerald first captured our attention with nursery rhymes, beginning with her breakthrough “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” From there she gradually expanded her purview to the point where she played a crucial role, no less than Sinatra, in helping to define the Great American Songbook, and made herself the gold standard of American popular music. Long before her centennial, it was clear that the contribution of Ella Fitzgerald to the world’s cultural legacy is so vast as to be incalculable.”

—Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Lenny McBrowne and the 4 Souls

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

There once was a time in the Land of Jazz when it seemed like everywhere you looked, small Jazz combos came together, played a few club gigs, made a record and then were gone.

The cats who made up these groups were young, enthusiastic and very good musicians, but the main reason they disbanded was usually due to a lack of work.

Some were married and had wives who supported them through day gigs. You could usually spot these caring and loving women in the club audience as they sat there beaming with pride and nursing a Brandy Alexander all night.

Occasionally, some of these young bloods would hook up with a touring big band and live out of a suitcase while traveling for a few weeks on a bus playing one-nighters “east of the Rockies” or “west of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Or, if they were musicians with special qualities, say a trumpet player like Carmel Jones or a tenor sax and fluitist like Yuseef Lateef or a pianist like Cedar Walton, they might land a gig with a Jazz combo with a national following like the groups led by Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley and Art Blakey, respectively. But such gigs were the rare exception.

One such here-today-gone-tomorrow group that I was particularly fond of was the quintet led by drummer Lenny McBrowne. The band was known as “Lenny McBrowne and the 4 Souls.”

“Soul” was a big word in the Land of Jazz for awhile and the best Jazz musicians were the “soulful” ones who were signifying and testifying in their music. The style was an amalgam of the music then prevalent in the Southern Baptist Church and a little New York-Chicago-Detroit-Philadelphia hipness.

Lenny’s quintet got into the act with their band name which is also the title of their Pacific Jazz LP [PJ-1].

I heard Lennie McBrowne and the 4 Souls in various venues in and around Hollywood and on each occasion,  I was always impressed with the very high level of musicianship on display by each soloist and the great arrangements that pianist Elmo Hope wrote for the group.

Some of Elmo’s arrangements were included on the quintet’s Pacific Jazz LP along with the following liner notes by Tillie Mitchell, who managed the quintet and brought them to Dick Bock’s attention at Pacific Jazz.

Jazz is a fleeting medium of expression and it is made no less so by the transient nature of many of the combos that perform it.

“LEONARD LOUIS McBROWNE was born in Brooklyn, New York. Following in the footsteps of his father, Arnold who was also a drummer, Lenny began playing drums in street marching bands between the ages of 12 and 15 and took lessons on bass besides. After graduation from high school, a lifelong friend of his father's gave him a complete set of drums. From then on, his career was decided. He was, at that time, fortunate to study for a year with his idol, Max Roach.

Lenny's first professional job was with saxophonist Pete Brown, a wonderful musician and teacher. Paul Bley was also in the group. Lenny came to California after a Midwestern College Tour in 1956. He has worked and recorded with Tony Scott, Billie Holliday and Sonny Stitt. Most recently, he has worked with Harold Land, Sonny Rollins, Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller.

Throughout the last year, I have listened to Lenny and observed his tireless effort in search for new creative avenues of expression and to please his audience at all times. My knowledge of his sincerity and honesty as a man and his love for the beauty in music as well as his artistry on his instrument, made me realize that he should be heard with his own group. This feeling within me was justified while he was working with Sonny Rollins at a club in California. Miles Davis was in the room. He got up from his seat and walked up to the bandstand, spoke to Sonny, then stood in front of Lenny, feet propped "ala Miles Davis" for nearly five minutes. As he passed me, returning to his seat, he asked me "Where did he come from?" Knowing Miles as long as I have, this was quite a compliment.

About a month later, after leaving Sonny Rollins to stay in for one night. I brought in Terry Trotter, Herb Lewis and Walter Benton, saxophonist, as they had worked together before. The people at the club liked the group so much that the owner gave them two nights a week for the next eight weeks. This was a year ago. After the engagement, Terry and Herbie decided to stay with Lenny to form the quintet. Teddy Edwards recommended Daniel Jackson who in turn recommended Donald Sleet. They went into endless daily rehearsals to prepare for any club dates or recordings I could get them. I brought Lenny and the group to the attention of Richard Bock, President of World Pacific Records who heard the beauty and jazz feeling of the group and signed them for recordings.

Lenny has a deep respect for the jazz talent of Elmo Hope and was very happy that he was in California to write and arrange for this date. He composed "McBrowne's Galaxy" especially for the date and arranged "Dearly Beloved" and "Invitation." "I Married An Angel," Lenny dedicates to his wife. The other compositions are by Daniel Jackson.

TERRY TROTTER was born in Los Angeles and sang before he talked. Born to a musical family, his mother and sister play piano and his father a reed instrument. He started playing piano at the age of six and has had a thorough classical training. His teachers were Earl Voorhies and Pete DeSantos, from whom he learned jazz harmony starting at the age of twelve. He and Herbie have played together since high school. His major influences are Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans and Bud Powell. He has worked with Teddy Edwards and Buddy DeFranco.

DONALD SLEET was born in San Diego. He started playing trumpet at the age of ten. Donald also has studied piano for three years. He won the outstanding trumpet award at the Lighthouse' Festival in 1956. He returned and repeated in 1957 while leading the group that won the title. His major influences are Kenny Dorham and Miles Davis.

DANIEL L. JACKSON was also born in San Diego and started playing the "C" Melody saxophone at twelve years of age. He played in the high school band where he switched to tenor and learned to play piano with the help of his brother, Fred. He joined the Air Force in 1955 and played with the band throughout his four year hitch. He received an Honorable Discharge in 1959 whereupon he joined Lenny for his first professional job. His major influences are Harold Land, Bud Powell and Horace Silver.

HERBIE LEWIS was born in Pasadena. His musical family includes Uncles Wesley Prince (original King Cole Trio, bass) and Peppy, drummer and band leader. Herb first played trombone and then baritone horn, but couldn't feel either. Between
fluences, he began playing bass at the age of fifteen. He credits learning music to Terry Trotter, his high school chum. He has worked with Teddy Edwards and recorded previously with Harold Land.                                              

 -Tillie Mitchell”

Here are three videos which will help you experience the music of this fine band. Both tracks feature arrangements by Elmo Hope.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Larry Goldings – “Caminhos Cruzados” - Mais Uma Vez [Portuguese for "One More Time"]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“With a decade [now, more two decades] of playing together under their belts, Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart must form one of the most long-lived organ trios in Jazz history.

Each member has amassed an imposing individual resume, during this period, yet their collective work has signified something more – a reaffirmation, not of the organ trio as a unit capable of satisfying a temporary fashion for things, but as an instrumentation as perfectly balanced in its way as the threesomes of piano, bass and drums or, in another realm, the string quartet.”
Bob Blumenthal, 1999

The music and the musicians on Hammond B-3 organist Larry Goldings’ Caminhos Cruzados [loosely translated from the Portuguese as “crossings paths”] have always been among my favorites.

Recorded in 1993, the compact disc seemed to come out of nowhere because its Brazilian bossa nova tunes hadn’t been in vogue for many years.

Here’s Larry description of how the recording came about.

“A few years ago, I made an interesting discovery about my early childhood. I had gone home to Massachusetts to visit my parents and brought with me a recording of the Brazilian singer João Gilberto. I had recently been introduced to his music by Jon Hendricks, with whom I was working, and instantly became somewhat of a fanatic.

At some point that weekend, I decided to play the CD for my mother, who isn't normally interested in the music I listen to, but I had an in­stinctual feeling that she would like it. After his opening guitar introduction, João started singing, and almost immediately my mother's face lit up and she said, ‘Oh, I remember this !’ I was sur­prised by her reaction and asked, ‘You mean you used to own this record?’ ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘I used to play it for you when you were a baby. It would always calm you down.’

This startling piece of information was quite a revelation to me. Could this, I thought, ex­plain why I am so moved by João Gilbert's voice? Could it be, that upon listening to him now I experience the same feelings of innocence and security that I felt as an infant, 25 years ago?

Well, Sigmund Freud might have been better equipped to answer these questions, but all I know is that the music of Brazil is very close to my heart, and it was a pleasure to prepare and re­cord this CD. It was also a special challenge because the Hammond organ is not often heard in Bra­zilian music, although interestingly one of the early pioneers of the bossa nova was in fact an organ­ist named Walter Wanderley.

On this CD, the focus is not so much on the organ itself, but on the jazz organ trio - that is, organ, guitar and drums. The other members comprising the trio are Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart, who are two of the most creative musicians playing today and have recorded with me on two other occasions. The group is augmented by the exceptional Brazilian per­cussionist Guilherme Franco, who, during the making of this CD had many insightful comments and suggestions that helped shape the music. Finally, listeners will be enchanted by the thoughtful play­ing of Joshua Redman.

While researching the material for this CD, I realized that there are many beautiful songs that have not been given the recognition they deserve. I discovered four such song among my João Gilberto records:  So Danco SambaHo-ha-la-la,  Avarandado, and the title track, Caminhos Cruzados. The latter, written by the prolific Antonio Carlos Jobim is perhaps my favorite on the CD. The composition is one of Jobim's most lyrical and is harmonically lush and unpredictable. Listen to Peter Bernstein's sublime statement of the melody, and the percussion accompaniment of Guilherme Franco, who, like Peter, is a master of taste. Among the other tracks are the obscure Menina-Moca. whose harmonic movement has a particularly "classical" sound, and the familiar Once I Loved, which is treated in a much slower, moodier manner than usual.

There are three selections that are not Brazilian songs at all, but naturally lend themselves to the bossa nova feeling. They are: Where or WhenUna Mas, and Serenata, on which the band could not resist the urge to swing the solos. One of the two sambas on the CD, Manine, is my own composition. Featured here is the exciting interplay between Guilherme (on the cuica) and Bill Stewart. Words is also my composition, and was inspired by a Chopin mazurka. It is a perfect vehicle for Joshua Redman, who displays his ability to interpret a ballad with finesse and a hint of the blues.

I must admit that I have never visited Brazil. I feel, however, as if I have, because as I recently discovered, the first musical sounds I ever heard were those of Brazil. Although I doubt that I was actually "listening" to my mother's João Gilberto record, (as I was only 1 or 2 years old), his voice, and the harmonies and rhythms of his guitar, were seeping into my subconscious, planting the seeds that would later become my love of music.

- written by Larry Goldings”

To give you some idea of the wonderful music on offer on Caminhos Cruzados, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles in conjunction with the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz and the production facilities of StudioCerra have developed the following video for you to sample.

We hope that you will enjoy this presentation of classic Brazilian bossa nova by some of today’s most accomplished Jazz musicians.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Charlie Rouse - A Creative Force on Tenor Saxophone

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Though a top tenor man in his own right, he will always be remembered as the saxophonist for the Thelonious Monk quartet. He adapted his playing to Monk’s music; his tone became heavier, his phrasing more careful, and he seemed to be the medium between Monk and the audience.”
- AllaboutJazz

"A communicator rather than a pioneer, he must have found it strange and galling to be pushed out of view with the rest of the 'avant-garde.' On the strength of [his solo albums], Charlie Rouse was 'in the tradition,' centrally and majestically."
-Richard Cook & Brian Morton, Penguin Guide To Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse was a long-standing member of Thelonious Monk's quartet (1959-1970), the association for which he is best known.

In the 1960s Rouse adapted his style to Monk's work, improvising with greater deliberation than most bop tenor saxophonists, and restating melodies often. His distinctive solo playing with Monk may be heard on "Shuffle Boil" (1964), in which he alternates reiterations of the principal thematic motif with formulaic bop runs.
-Barry Kernfeld, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

“Charlie Rouse, who has often been disparaged by critics but served his leader well. Rouse was certainly not a soloist of the stature of Coltrane or Rollins (or, for that matter, Griffin) but he absorbed and understood Monk's musical processes as well as anyone the pianist ever played with, and explored them with considerable imagination and timbral variety in a style of improvisation which he developed specifically for that purpose.”
- Kenny Mathieson, Giant Steps: Bebop and The creators of Modern Jazz, 1945-1965

“I never wrote a column about Charlie Rouse — can't explain it. When I first got to know Stanley Crouch, we bonded over our mutual outrage at how three favorite tenors had been critically disrespected when we were growing up: Rouse, George Coleman, and Paul Gonsalves. We set out to render justice. Rouse's pithy, almost epigrammatic phrases; sandy timbre, by way of Wardell Gray; and uncanny ability to blend with the tones of Thelonious Monk's piano amounted to a rare oasis in a frantic era. For that matter, I never wrote a long-planned column on Wardell Gray either. What the hell was I doing? Nearly 650 Weather Birds, maybe 400 Riffs, yet no Rouse, no Gray, no Ervin, no Tristano, no Dameron, no James P., no Teschmacher, no Lee Morgan, Mea multiple culpas.”
- Gary Giddins, Weather Bird: Jazz At The Dawn of Its Second Century
After reading the “mea culpa” by Gary Giddins, I didn’t feel so bad about having omitted a profile of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse from these pages until I located a disc by him entitled Charlie Rouse: Unsung Hero [Columbia Jazz Masterpiece/Epic CD 46181].

That did it!

“Unsung hero?”

Not if I had anything to say about it.

Then the fun began because - you guessed it - despite an eleven year association with Thelonious Monk, one of the Grand Masters of Modern Jazz - good luck finding anything readily available about Charlie other than passing references.

But as Will Friedwald states in his assertion that Monk would have had to invent Charlie had he not existed, I had to conjure him up by a deliberate combing of the Jazz literature in order to represent something about Charlie on JazzProfiles. Charlie has become such an overlooked figured in Modern Jazz annals, it’s almost as though he didn’t exist.

In addition to the quotations about Charlie at the outset of this piece, what follows is the complete text of Will Friedwald’s notes to Charlie Rouse: Unsung Hero and Pete Watrous’s obituary which appeared in The New York Times.

Together these should provide you with a pretty good overview of Charlie’s 40+ career which seems to span the ascent and the descent of 20th century modern Jazz.

“If Charlie Rouse hadn't existed, Thelonious Monk would have had to invent him. Never exactly a co-leader of the groups they worked in together over the course of eleven years, Rouse was, nevertheless, more than a Monk sideman, more even than the Monk sideman. In Rouse, Monk found the collaborator of his dreams: not only a horn frontline player who shared his attitudes towards melody, meter and phrasing, but his Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Paul Gonsalves, and Harry Carney all rolled into one.

A first listen to any of the hundreds of recordings, live and studio, extant by their magical quartet might lead one to assume that they thought as one. But actually it was more like one and a half, since Rouse was never merely a musical yes-man. Rather than just finishing Monk's sentences, Rouse added something of his own to them which added infinitely to the potency of the message.

Monk so trusted Rouse with keeping his stylistic flame alive that he felt free to rise from the piano bench during the tenor solos and give vent to the passion that Rouse's playing unleashed in him. As Rouse gave out, Monk danced around the piano in a terpsichorean display both hornlike and bear-like, and every bit as delightfully improvisation as his keyboard work. Even while Thelonious himself was producing no sound, the noises coming from the bandstand were no less Monkish. Still, even though Monk trusted Rouse to deputize while he became a one-man Buck and-Bubbles, apart from the quartet he never served as Monk's emissary, say, as Don Cherry has for Ornette Coleman. Throughout his career, Rouse was recognized by his fellow musicians (if only rarely by critics) both as a voice unique in and of himself, and for his equally extraordinary ability to groove into Monk's music.

Both he and Monk had passed through the bebop era, Monk at its birth, Rouse at its zenith, but remained stylistic outsiders to its tenets, belonging as much to the domains of swing and mainstream. Just as Monk could appear at times art extension—and not necessarily a bebop extension—of Duke Ellington, Rouse identified his roots in Ben Webster. "Somebody's always saying I was influenced by this guy or that guy," Rouse said to Don DeMichael in a down beat interview in 1961, "but they never mention the guy who really influenced me—Ben Webster. I dig his sound so, the warm sound he gets on ballads."

Remember, not only were forward-thinking stylemasters such as Monk and Duke Ellington attracted to Rouse, but so were advanced swing mavens like Count Basie and Buddy Rich, various voices from the bop era, like Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Pettiford, and Fats Navarro, and rhythm and blues groups like .Eddie Vinson and Louis Jordan. (Milt Jackson told him later, "I didn't know which side you were on, rock and roll or jazz.')

Growing up in the District of Columbia, the milestones in Rouse's early career included sessions with two fellow Washingtonians, Billy Eckstine and Duke Ellington. He joined Eckstine's bond at age 20, the veteran of extensive "wood-shedding" at a local club called the Crystal Cavern during his high school years.

At first, as Eckstine associate tori Coleman recalled, the young tenorist was in over his head in this band of bebop firebrands whose store were, after the leader himself, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker; and, after a tour of the South, Rouse and Lucky Thompson (for personal reasons) were let go in Chicago. For a year in Milwaukee he played on weekends while working odd jobs out of music, until Dizzy Gillespie sent for him, first to play in a short-lived small bond that worked in Washington before the Gillespie-Parker unit tackled California, and then more extensively with the fabled Gillespie big band.

The mid-'40s to mid-'50s served as Rouse's bebop decade, during which time he gigged extensively with virtually every major figure of the modernist revolution, making his first records in the company of Tadd Dameron and Fats Navarro.

Rouse's bop period was interrupted by an engagement that would have serious ramifications on his development: "Ben Webster left Duke Ellington's band [for the second time, in 1949], and Duke was looking for a tenor player," Rouse remembered to Pete Dawson in a 1982 Coda interview, "and one of my fans, a lady who always wanted me to play 'Body And Soul” and who knew Duke very well, told Duke he should come and listen. So, Duke heard me and hired me."

Because of the recording ban and other problems, the Ellington band only did two short commercial sessions for Columbia during the few months when Rouse was in the reed section. Ellington did feature Rouse in his 1950 Universal Pictures film short, Salute to Duke Ellington. Rouse may well have been the next Ellington tenor star (a place in history that went to Paul Gonsalves); however, he encountered catastrophe when the band was booked to tour Europe in spring of 1950. Rouse couldn't find his birth certificate and was summarily denied a passport. "There I was," he told DeMichael, "standing on the dock, waving goodbye to them."

There would be lots more work with both modem jazz and r&b groups, including the most important of trumpet legend Clifford Brown's Blue Note sessions. But Rouse was clearly looking to make a kind of music somewhere between bop and Ellington.

He took an important step towards it when working with Oscar Pettiford (on a 1954 Bethlehem ten-inch Lp, and elsewhere), the bassist, cellist, and bandleader who had also pivoted between Ellington's band and the new musk and who himself was fast becoming one of jazz's most distinguished when he died at age 38 in 1960.

While playing with Pettiford intermittently and with trombonist Benny Green's more regularly working bond, Rouse joined forces with jazz's leading French horn player, Julius Watkins. "We discovered that tenor and french horn have a beautiful sound, so we decided to get a band together," Rouse said in a Cadence interview with A. David Franklin in 1987, explaining that the group's name "Les Jazz Modes" amounted to o franglais wink at the name of Watkins's instrument. "Our first album for Atlantic was The Most Happy Fella, an album of show tunes they wanted us to do. The next album was of our own compositions, and after that nobody wanted to book the band."

"Sonny Rollins was the one who told me that Thelonious needed a saxophone player/' Rouse recoiled in downbeat. "Sonny had been working with him off and on, and then Johnny Griffin had been working with him at the Five Spot - then Griff left the group and was on the way to Europe." As it turned out, Monk had already contacted Rouse when Rollins got in touch with him. "Before the Five Spot, I had worked with Thelonious now and then, so he knew me; we were friends. And after a point they just couldn't keep Monk back; if something was right, you can't stop it."

The Monk-Rouse combination turned out to be the rightest in music, easily the highlight of both careers. In 1961, the team switched from the smaller Riverside label to the big leagues at Columbia, and the '60s became the decade of international recognition-not to mention work-that Monk and Rouse had worked 20 years to achieve.

Early in their collaboration, some years before Monk came to Columbia, in fact, Rouse recorded an album and a half's worth of material for CBS producer Mike Berniker. Berniker was creatively using the Epic imprint at Columbia to give exposure to a series of worthwhile musicians, most of whom hadn't even been featured on the jazz specialist labels. Rouse's first two Epic sessions appeared on the album Oh Yeah!, while the remaining three tunes were combined with an unrelated date by the equally deserving tenorist Seldon Powell (Epic made several of these tandem albums, such as Ray Bryant and Betty Carter), in a set accurately titled We Paid Our Dues. The two Epics with Rouse quickly became valuable collector's items, if scarcely noticed by the jazz press and, apparently, never mentioned again by Rouse.

Just as a Monk-Rouse treatment of a standard excites because it makes you see an old friend from a new angle, the Rouse Epic sessions signify landmark achievements because of the ways they confirm what we suspected but didn't know for sure. Certainly they reveal stylistic elements inherent in Rouse's playing with Monk but, just the same, we had to hear Rouse with a more conventional pianist to confirm how much they were a part of Rouse's own stylistic lunchbox. On six out of nine tracks here, one Billy Gardner, whose name as much as his playing suggests stylistic similarities to both Erroll Garner and Red Garland, making his first session, plays piano (later he would play organ for Sonny Stitt), while on "When Sunny Gets Blue," "Quarter Moon," and "I Should Core" the swing and bop main-streamer Gildo Mahones (a close associate of Lester Young, and Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross) sits on the piano bench.

Although Gardner and Mahones fete Rouse with conventional comping as opposed to Monk's nate-for-note empathy, Rouse still lets you have his putty-edged tone and his staccato melodic structure straight, no chaser. When he improvises on idea, Rouse doesn't dress it up or milk it until he can think of something else, but rather states it simply and elegantly and then moves on. Rouse's ballad improvisations resound as particularly impressive: out of the Thelonian context, his breathy exhalations reveal his roots in Ben Webster (especially in the "Chelsea Bridge"-styled "Quarter Moon").

However, Rouse has reasoned away Webster's emotional polarization, offering neither excessive sentiment nor aggressiveness as the older man was wont to do, but rattier speaking with a single unified voice. Even the cadenza intro to "When Sunny Gets Blue,” which would sound florid in the horn of another tenorman, comes off as a perfect route into the heart of the standard. Furthermore, the boppish uptempos in no way compromise the mood of the ballads, while "Billy's Blues," a moody, loping slow blues, assumes all the tenderness of the love songs, and, conversely, "Stella By Starlight" and "(There Is) No Greater Love" take on the groovy, medium gait of the blues numbers.

Overall, the blend of standards and blues edges the Monk-Rouse ideal from the left field to the mainstream, which anticipates Rouse's subsequent "leader” albums in which he succeeds at turning his tenor sax into a popular music voice, although his bid for that audience ultimately failed.

Long after Monk's retirement, Rouse reached a different sort of pinnacle in the cooperative collective Sphere, which, until his death in 1986, continued to explore the principles and sometimes the music of the Monk-Rouse group.

"Once you start creating, you never know what's happening on the bandstand," Rouse said in 1982, "and once the flow of whoever is on that bandstand starts meshing, and you hear that pulse, you hove to be dead not to start patting your feet. That's the beauty of that music."


The following obituary appeared in December 2, 1988, New York Times

Charlie Rouse, 64, a Saxophonist Known for Work in Monk Quartet


Charlie Rouse, a tenor saxophonist and one of jazz's great individualists, died of lung cancer on Wednesday afternoon at University Hospital in Seattle. He was 64 years old.

Mr. Rouse came to prominence in 1944 when he joined the Billy Eckstine Orchestra, which at the time included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lucky Thompson and Sarah Vaughan. He became known for his beautiful tone and the individuality of his playing.

He quickly became an important musician, working and recording with many of the major figures of the day. He played in Dizzy Gillespie's big band, and in 1947 recorded with the trumpeter Fats Navarro and the composer Tadd Dameron. In 1949, Mr. Rouse replaced Ben Webster in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, but he had to leave the band in 1950 when a passport problem kept him from embarking on an international tour. Months later, he was working with a small band led by Count Basie. Collaboration With Monk
During the 1950's, Mr. Rouse worked and recorded with a series of different musicians, including the bassist Oscar Pettiford, the trombonist Benny Green and the trumpeter Clifford Brown. In 1955, he started a group, Les Jazz Modes, which incorporated a French horn and a vocalist in the front line and featured gentle but firmly swinging arrangements.

But it was in 1959, when Mr. Rouse joined Thelonious Monk's quartet, that he began to do his best work, embarking on one of the most fruitful collaborations in the history of jazz. By then, Mr. Rouse had finished developing his improvising style. His phrasing, clipped and emotionally blunt, was matched in its distinctiveness by his dry but luxuriant tone.

As a soloist, each of his phrases settled into a larger design and seemed to comment on what had gone before. Mr. Rouse was never shy of passion; his solos were full of dignity, joy and optimism.

Spare but Compassionate Play

This all served him well while he was working with Mr. Monk, who had an overwhelming personality. Together, between 1959 and 1970, they developed a sophisticated interplay, where Mr. Monk would interject ideas into Mr. Rouse's spare lines. Mr. Rouse's solos would become duets and the two would carry on extended musical conversations, with Mr. Monk's brittle, prolix improvisations contrasting perfectly with Mr. Rouse's compassionate, emotionally sympathetic playing.

But Mr. Rouse - a retiring man who was not the type to draw attention to himself - worked in the shadow of Mr. Monk. It wasn't until 1979, when Mr. Rouse formed the group Sphere, which was dedicated, at first, to playing Mr. Monk's compositions, that he began to achieve the sort of recognition he deserved. The group, which became one of jazz's most sophisticated bands, recorded several albums, showcasing his distinctive, assured style.

In New York he worked regularly at the Village Vanguard, either as a member of Sphere, with an exceptional band jointly led by the pianist Mal Waldron, or with his own quartet. His most recent appearances in New York City were at the Village Vanguard, in 1986, and at Lincoln Center in August, where he played with a trio at a tribute for Tadd Dameron.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen Rouse, a son, two brothers and a sister.

Additional Sources:

Dom DeMichael, “Charlie Rouse: Artistry and Originality, Down Beat, xxviii/11, 1961

P. Danson, “Charlie Rouse,” Coda, No. 187, 1982

A.D. Franklin, “Charlie Rouse,” Cadence, xiii/6, 1987.

You can check out Charlie Rouse’s music on the following video on which he performs Oscar Pettiford’s Bohemia After Dark with Claudio Roditi, trumpet, Sahib Shihab, baritone sax, Walter Davis, Jr., piano, Santi Debriano, bass and Victor Lewis, drums.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wes Montgomery / Wynton Kelly Trio Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966)

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Michael Bloom of Michael Bloom Media Relations is handling the public relations for the latest in Resonance Records continuing series of recently discovered classic recordings by Jazz Masters from halcyon days gone by and he sent along this information about:

Wes Montgomery / Wynton Kelly Trio Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966)

Previously unreleased live sets featuring jazz guitar icon Wes Montgomery with piano legend Wynton Kelly’s Trio featuring bassist Ron McClure & drummer Jimmy Cobb Recorded at Seattle’s Prestigious Jazz Club, the Penthouse, on April 14 and 21, 1966

Includes extensive book of liner notes featuring rare photos, essays by guitar icon Pat Metheny, Seattle Times writer Paul de Barros, producer Zev Feldman, original recording engineer Jim Wilke, plus interviews with Jimmy Cobb, NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron and more.

Deluxe Limited Edition LP Released Exclusively for Record Store Day (April 22, 2017)

And Deluxe CD & Digital Editions Available on May 19, 2017

Los Angeles, CA (March 13, 2017)- Resonance Records is proud to announce the release of Wes Montgomery with the Wynton Kelly Trio - Smokin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966) captured live at the Penthouse jazz club in Seattle, WA on April 14 and 21, 1966. Smokin' in Seattle marks the third commercially released live album of guitar icon Wes Montgomery with piano legend Wynton Kelly, recorded only seven months after their classic 1965 live album Smokin' at the Half Note, notably referred to by Pat Metheny as "the absolute greatest jazz guitar album ever made." Wynton's dynamic trio features the solid rhythm section of bassist Ron McClure -who took the place of long-time trio bassist Paul Chambers, then joined Charles Lloyd's "classic quartet" with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette following this stint with Wes and Wynton - and the legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb, an NEA Jazz Master most well-known for Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain and Someday My Prince Will Come albums.

Available on May 19, 2017 as a Deluxe CD and digital format, this archival treasure includes an extensive liner note book featuring rare photos by Lee Tanner, Chuck Stewart, Tom Copi, Joe Alpert and others; essays by guitar icon Pat Metheny, Seattle Times writer Paul de Barros, producer Zev Feldman, original recording engineer and Seattle Radio DJ Jim Wilke , and Ron McClure; plus interviews with Jimmy Cobb and NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron.

Located in the heart of Seattle's historic district in Pioneer Square,the Penthouse jazz club was opened in 1962 by Charles Puzzo, Sr., and quickly became a destination for iconic jazz talents such as John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz and The Three Sounds to name a few. Well-known radio personality,Jim Wilke, developed a working relationship with this legendary club, which in turn allowed him to air live broadcasts from the club every Thursday night using state-of-the-art equipment of that era. His weekly radio show, Jazz from the Penthouse, aired on Seattle's NPR affiliate, KING FM from 1962 through 1968, and has never been rebroadcast. When executive producer George Klabin learned of these recordings, he couldn't believe his good fortune to come across this thrilling 1960s material of Wes Montgomery with Wynton Kelly.

Producer Zev Feldman says, "The association between Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly is a critical part of the Montgomery legacy. Resonance has been releasing only the guitar icon's material from the 1950s thus far, so it's very exciting for us to be moving into Wes's 1960s discography with this incredible addition to the Montgomery canon from a cherished era. It's also the only known recording known of Wes and Ron McClure together, which I think is also cause for celebration. As usual, we've gathered all the rights to make it official and have created a dynamic package worthy of this timeless music."

"The experience of playing with those guys was like being baptized," says Ron McClure in his liner notes essay. "The music was joyous. It was buoyant. It was happy; positive - like they were as people."

By the time the 1966 Wes Montgomery with the Wynton Kelly Trio gig rolled around, Wes was on top of his game. His album Goin' Out of My Head (Verve) had shot up the Billboard R&B charts to No. 12, and within a year, the album would garner a 1967 GRAMMY® Award and sell nearly a million copies. At the ripe age of 43, Wes was at the pinnacle of his career. And just one year later, he would no longer be with us.

Wynton Kelly first collaborated with Wes Montgomery in 1962 with their album Full House (Riverside), also with Jimmy Cobb on drums (McClure joined Wynton Kelly's trio a few years later in 1965, replacing Paul Chambers), followed by the legendary Smokin' at the Half Note . And now we have Smokin' in Seattle, a new chapter in the storied collaboration of these two jazz giants.

Modern day jazz guitar icon Pat Metheny writes, "The news that another example of that band in action had surfaced was headline news for those of us in the hard-core Wes community. The incredible revelations contained in Resonance's previous releases of Wes's early work have been thrilling. This release adds yet another dimension to the almost impossibly brief ten years that Wes was the jazz world's most renowned guitarist, particularly to completists like me who want to hang on to and cherish every note Wes played."

This 10-track album is indeed a "smokin'" musical exchange between Wynton and Wes, swinging with fire-cracker energy. The Wynton Kelly trio opened each set of the 9-night engagement with a couple of tunes before Wes joined them on stage. The album opens with "There Is No Greater Love," an upbeat rendition of Isham Jones's well known jazz standard. Wynton glides through seven choruses filled with his trademark lyrical legato lines, with bluesy twists and turns along the way. His joyous playing is apparent from the start. In an interview with Kenny Baron included in the liner notes, he says, "Wynton was kind of in a class by himself. His touch, his feeling, his sense of time, sense of rhythm… For me it was just very, very unique." Often underappreciated as a player, despite his years with Miles Davis, Wynton remains an iconic figure, for jazz fans and next generation of jazz players.

"It's easy to hear why these two musicians relished playing together. Bluesy, soulful, linear swingers whose solos burst forward with natural, unpretentious vigor...," describes Paul de Barros in his essay. About Wes's spritely tune "Jingles," de Barros adds, "Montgomery comes out the gate loaded for bear, executing a slithering glide up the fretboard that elicits a cry of astonished approval from someone in the crowd." Wes and Wynton's playful banter continues with Wes's compositions "Blues in F" and "West Coast Blues," mixed in with Blue Mitchell's swinging bebop tune "Sir John" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova "O Morro Não Tem Vez." The album finishes the musical journey with Sonny Rollin's "Oleo."

Jimmy Cobb remembers the band fondly, "Wes was a nice guy, man. He was a very comedic kind of guy. Like he would say funny things and do funny things…But he was a sweet guy. Wynton was also a sweet guy. So we all got along together pretty good. And the playing was exceptional for the four of us."

With the support and friendship of the Puzzo family and Jim Wilke, Resonance is proud to bring this remarkable, previously unknown recording to the public, now the second release in a series of Resonance releases recorded at the Penthouse, following the 2016 album, The Three Sounds featuring Gene Harris - Groovin' Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 .

Previous Wes Montgomery releases on the Resonance label include rare historical discoveries from Wes captured in the 1950's, before his ascension to icon status -Echoes of Indiana Avenue (2012),In the Beginning (2015) and One Night in Indy (2016). The label is thrilled to add Wynton Kelly to their musical library and give him the royal treatment he so deserves.
The limited-edition, hand-numbered LP pressing on 180-gram black vinyl will be released exclusively for Record Store Day's event on April 22, 2017. The LP version has been mastered by the legendary Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering and pressed at Record Technology, Inc. (RTI), and features the same liner note material as the CD version.

Wes Montgomery – guitar*
Wynton Kelly – piano
Ron McClure – bass
Jimmy Cobb – drums

Track Listing:
  • There Is No Greater Love (7:56)
  • Not a Tear (6:29)
  • *Jingles (4:31)
  • *What's New (4:51)
  • *Blues in F (2:44)*
  • Sir John (8:10)
  • If You Could See Me Now (5:54)
  • *West Coast Blues (3:56)
  • *O Morro Não Tem Vez (6:15)
  • *Oleo (2:08)
You can located order information by visiting