4 1/2 STARS ALL MUSIC GUIDE - 3 STARS PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ
CHARLIE ROUSE, tenor sax SAHIB SHIHAB, baritone sax CLAUDIO RODITI, trumpet WALTER DAVIS, JR., piano SANTI DEBRIANO, bass VICTOR LEWIS, drums
New Jersey, July 6 & 7, 1988
01. November Afternoon
02. Green Chimneys
03. Prayer Song
04. So Nice
05. Soul Mates
06. Bohemia After Dark
07. Soft Shoulder
08. I'm Never Happy Anymore
11. Bird's Nest
Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse spent over a decade in Thelonious Monk's band, and so his individual talent is sometimes overlooked (Monk cast a long shadow). This marvelous 1988 album led by Rouse should testify to his considerable abilities, but there won't be any more; he died later the same year of lung cancer. However, the playing here, alternately swinging and soulful (if you'll pardon the expression) sounds perfectly healthy. Indeed, this album harks back to the classic Blue Note blowing session LP's by the likes of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Clark. "November Afternoon" (which opens the CD), "So Nice," and "Bohemia After Dark," among others, are all muscular, groove-oriented pieces.
Part of the love for this album is for the thick, chewy sound of the baritone sax in general, which Sahib Shihab handles here with aplomb. Claudio Roditi burns on trumpet and flugelhorn; the call and response of these three horns is the one of the major delights of Soul Mates. The quiet, contemplative "Bittersweet" is a change of pace, with just Rouse and the rhythm section. "Bird's Nest"----a Rouse original that has no relation to the Charlie Parker recording of the same name----ends the album in cheerful, swinging fashion. Most of the ear-tickling arrangements are by Don Sickler, and demonstrate the authority that small-group jazz can have when done right.
The Blue Note feel is perhaps helped by the fact that Soul Mates was recored at the famous Van Gelder studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder himself. Some studios seem to have an aura about them. There's also a great flow to this album, one track leading smoothly and appositely to the next. If you like melodic post-bop jazz, get this. In fact, just get it on general principles. You won't be sorry.