SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Charlie Rouse and Paul Quinichette – The Chase is On – Bethlehem (1957) /Pure Pleasure (vinyl)

Rouse and Quinichette, in a friendly tenor sax duel….

Published on September 26, 2013

Charlie Rouse and Paul Quinichette – The Chase is On – Bethlehem (1957) /Pure Pleasure (vinyl)

Charlie Rouse and Paul Quinichette – The Chase is On – Bethlehem (1957) /Pure Pleasure BCP6021 – 180 gram mono vinyl ****:

(Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette – tenor saxes; Wynton Kelly or Hank Jones – piano; Wendell Marshall – bass; Ed Thigpen – drums; Freddie Green – guitar (A 2, and B 1))

Tenor sax duels were big in the 1950s and ’60s. They included Wardell Gray and Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, and Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. Some of them were true cutting sessions, and some were just friendly meetings between complementary stylists. Most provided listeners a way to compare tenor tones, and maybe to see “who came out on top.”

The 1957 meeting between Quinichette and Rouse was a friendly affair and featured an all-star rhythm section backing. Paul was referred to as the “Vice Prez” due to apt comparison to Lester Young and his style was primarily swing, whereas Charlie Rouse developed into a bop/post bop player, especially after his extended tenure with Monk.

On The Chase is On, the two tenors cover swing blues, and the burgeoning sound of hard bop that was just coming into style at that time period. The title track brings to mind the meeting between Wardell Gray and Dexter Gordon that occurred four years earlier, and appropriately is bop-based. “When the Blues Comes On” is a natural choice for Paul and Charlie. Rouse has a more full-bodied tone similar to Dexter, while Paul’s comparison to Lester Young is very apparent in its gently nuanced fashion.

“This Can’t be Love” is taken as a gently swinging pace, much like you might hear late night in a small club. Wynton Kelly comps ably and Ed Thigpen is back in the mix. Throughout the session the tenors are totally out front while the rhythm section seems a little too far back in its miking. Ray Staff, at Air Mastering, has done his usual exemplary job, however, in making the tenor tones super clean, so comparing how Charlie and Paul cover a tune is a fun comparison. I found the LP issue much warmer and the soundstage fuller than on my Japanese-issued CD.

“Last Time for Love” lets the duo play in a soulful ensemble blend that is quite enjoyable. Each has the opportunity to play an occasional improvised line.

Carmen McRae’s “Last Time for Love” provides more opportunity for the pair to swing, and Rouse comes out on top in a gentle competition. On “You’re Cheating Yourself,” Ed Thigpen gets a rare solo while Hank Jones is on piano for only the second time on the album. “Knittin,” the only tune written by a band member (Rouse) gives Wendell Marshall a nice opening, before the two tenors explore the blues, and Marshall “walks along.”

“Tender Trap” is an opportunity for more sweet ensemble playing and its melody is instantly recognizable. The tenor session is closed with “The Things I Love” as a “conversation,” as the two exchange bluesy phrases with aplomb.

All in all, The Chase is On, is a winning session and a real treat to hear in decent acoustics that far outmatch any CD version that I have heard. Long live vinyl….

Side A: The Chase is On, When the Blues Come On, This Can’t be Love, Last Time for Love
Side B:  You’re Cheating Yourself, Knittin’, Tender Trap, The Things I Love

—Jeff Krow

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