Charlie Rouse – Bio

In Bio on March 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm


Charlie Rouse (April 6, 1924 – November 30, 1988) was an American hard bop tenor saxophonist and flautist. 

Charlie Rouse was in Thelonious Monk’s Quartet for over a decade (1959-1970) and, although somewhat taken for granted, was an important ingredient in Monk’s music. Rouse was always a modern player and he worked with Billy Eckstine’s orchestra (1944) and the first Dizzy Gillespie ig band (1945), making his recording debut with Tadd Dameron in 1947. Rouse popped up in a lot of important groups including Duke Ellington’s Orchestra (1949-1950), Count Basie’s octet (1950), on sessions with Clifford Brown in 1953, and with Oscar Pettiford’s sextet (1955). He co-led the Jazz Modes with Julius Watkins (1956-1959), and then joined Monk for a decade of extensive touring and recordings. In the 1970s he recorded a few albums as a leader, and in 1979 he became a member of Sphere. Charlie Rouse’s unique sound began to finally get some recognition during the 1980s. He participated on Carmen McRae’s classic Carmen Sings Monk album and his last recording was at a Monk tribute concert.

~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide


Charlie Rouse studied clarinet before taking up tenor saxophone. He played in the bop big bands of Billy Eckstine (1944) and Dizzy Gillespie (1945), but made his first recordings as a soloist only in 1947, with Tadd Dameron and Fats Navarro.

After playing rhythm-and-blues in Washington and New York, he was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1949-50) and Count Basie’s octet (1950). He took part in Clifford Brown’s first recordings in 1953, then worked with Bennie Green (1955) and played in Oscar Pettiford’s sextet (1955); with Julius Watkins, also one of Pettiford’s sidemen, he led Les Modes (later the Jazz Modes), a bop quintet (1956-59). He joined Buddy Rich briefly before playing in 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 the classic recordings in the bands heyday.

Though he would go on to do some solo projects, they were very selective and he opted for quality over quantity. His first outing as leader was “Taking Care of Business,” (1960) for this overdue debut, he selected trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and a rhythm section of pianist Walter Bishop and bassist Earl May, and Art Taylor on drums.

During the 1970s he worked as a freelance, and recorded three albums as a leader. The album “Two is One” was recorded in 1974 for Strata East. Charlie in 1977 did “Moments Notice,” and enlisted the help of some top crack Brazilian locals for “Cinnamon Flower.” Dom Salvador, Amaury Tristao, Dom Um Romao, Portinho and Claudio Roditi were hooked up with some of NYCs finest-Ron Carter,Bernard Purdie and Clifford Adams. This was a highlight album for Rouse in that period, very well received.

In the early 1980s he was a member and joint leader of the quartet Sphere, which was dedicated to the performance of Monk’s music. He recorded other albums as “Social Call,” (’84) where he joined up with Red Rodney. His offering of “Epistrophy,” (1988) was his tribute to Monk. This was his last recording as he died seven weeks later.

from All About Jazz

The asteroid “(10426) Charlierouse” was officially named to honor Charlie Rouse in 2007 by its discoverer, the American planetary scientist and astronomer Joe Montani, a Monk and Rouse fan. The asteroid is in the main-belt of asteroids. Asteroid “(11091) Thelonious” was named earlier by Montani. Each asteroid has an orbital period of about 4 years, and is about 10 kilometers in size.


As leader

  • The Chase Is On, 1957, Bethlehem.
  • Takin’ Care Of Business, 1960, Prestige.
  • Unsung Hero, 1960-61, Epic.
  • Live at the ‘It’ Club, 1964, Columbia Jazz
  • Bossa Nova Bacchanal, 1962-65, Blue Note.
  • Two is One, 1973, Strata-East Records.
  • Moment’s Notice, 1977, Storyville.
  • Cinammon Flower, 1977, Rykodisc.
  • Upper Manhattan Jazz Society, 1981, Enja.
  • Social Call, 1984, Uptown.
  • Epistrophy, 1988, Landmark
  • Soul Mates (featuring Sahib Shihab)

As sideman

With Thelonious Monk

  • Criss Cross (1962)
  • Monk’s Dream (1963)
  • Live at the It Club (1964)
  • Straight, No Chaser (1966)
  • Underground (1968)

With Sonny Clark

  • Leapin’ and Lopin” (1961)

With Benny Carter

  • Further Definitions (1961)

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