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 distinctivness 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.

Source: wiki


The music of Thelonious Monk is, for me, purely devotional and endlessly life-affirming. And I am devoted to it, as Monk was my doorway into jazz. In fact, I still remember where I was standing, at 15, in a friend’s makeshift photo darkroom when he dropped the needle on “Hackensack”, the first track on Criss Cross (still my all-time favorite). I was electrified by its playful melody, its willful dissonance, and its swinging take on the blues. Not to mention the lightning communication between Monk and his altoist Charlie Rouse: the greatest marriage of sense and sensibility since Duke Ellington found Johnny Hodges. In fact, no one save Ellington composed more melodies than Monk that sound now so utterly inevitable. I am reminded of the quote from Picasso where he said, “When I was 22 I could paint like Rembrandt, but it took my whole life to learn to paint like a child.”

To me, “Hackensack” is the sound of a man completely in control of his powers, but down on his knees like a kid, painting with his fingers.

Joe Henry

• September 1958: Griffin leaves the group, replaced by Sonny Rollins.
• October 1958: Rollins leaves the group, replaced by Charlie Rouse.
• January 1959: Record producer Harry Colomby approaches Monk with the idea of doing an evening of his music in a big-band format in concert at Town Hall in New York. Monk and Hall Overton begin working on arrangements for the concert at the Overton-Smith loft. They assemble a band, including Rouse, with Sam Jones on bass and Art Taylor on drums.
• February 28, 1959: The Town Hall concert takes place.
• April 1959: The new working quartet, with Rouse, Jones, and Taylor, is booked into George Wein’s Storyville in Boston (now the basement of the Copley Square Hotel). Monk is unhappy with his accommodations at the Bostonian Hotel at the corner of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue (now a Berklee building), is unable to get a room at the Statler, and decides to go back to New York. At Logan Airport, he becomes agitated. A state trooper takes him into custody and brings him to Grafton State Hospital, where he is treated with Thorazine. He is released a week later in the custody of his wife Nellie and returns to New York.
• July 1959: The Rouse-Jones-Taylor quartet plays the Newport Jazz Festival. Monk is approached by director Roger Vadim and music producer Marcel Romano to do the soundtrack for Les liaisons dangereuses. From July 27 to July 29, the quartet, augmented by French tenor player Barney Wilen, records at Nola Studios in New York, where they rehearse a new version of “Light Blue.”
Source: The Arts Fuse

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