Album of the week: Bossa Nova Bacchanal – Charlie Rouse

In the early 60’s, the release of a bossa nova album by an American jazz musician was not a rare phenomenon. Bossa nova had become a new craze in North America and this led to a number of album releases that were less than noteworthy. Ironically, Charlie Rouse’s 1962 album “Bossa Nova Bacchanal”, though generally not as popular as others, certainly stands out as one of the best albums in this category.

A lot of this has to do with the approach Rouse took for this album. His conscious decision to stick with his jazz roots but smoothly fit in elements of bossa nova, Latin and Caribbean music was a wise one. It allows this album to stand out with a level of authenticity amongst a crowd of imitators.

Bossa Nova Bacchanal by Charlie Rouse

Bossa Nova Bacchanal by Charlie Rouse

As a collaborator with the legendary Thelonious Monk for more than a decade, one would assume that Rouse, would know the importance of a good team and this is evident based on the musicians selected for the album.  The involvement of Willie bobo, Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Garvin Masseaux in the percussion section is definitely a highlight and a source of the “Bacchanal” feel on the album.  Kenny Burrell and Chauncey Westbrook on the guitars add to the party and serve to heighten the affair with impressive solos. Last but not least, Charlie Rouse, the host, is as sharp as ever delivering remarkable performances time and time again.

Despite its fusion of elements from a manifold of sources, it seems fitting that bossa nova pioneer Luiz Bonfa would provide the two highlight of the album, “Samba De Orfeu” and “Velhos Tempos.” The latter finds Rouse in fine shape on the saxophone, backed by the aforementioned group of musicians. It is credit to the guitarists for capturing the feel that is so recognizably attached to Bonfa on this track.

Though not purely a bossa nova album, “Bossa Nova Bacchanal” is a meaningful entry in the world of bossa nova. What we have here is Rouse’s successful execution of cultural and musical assimilation during a period when attempted acculturation was the order of the day. Though the rhythm and party feel make the album a rewarding experience for listeners of jazz, bossa nova and calypso, the theoretical framework it all exists in is equally impressive.

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Recorded:November 26, 1962 & January 22, 1965

Genre: Jazz

Length:35:29 original LP

Label:Blue Note

Producer: Alfred Lion

1.”Back to the Tropics” (Leighla Whipper)

2.”Aconteceu” (Ed Lincoln, Silvio Rodríguez)

3.”Velhos Tempos” (Luiz Bonfá)

4.”Samba de Orfeu” (Bonfá, Antonio María)

5.”Un Dia” (Margarita Orelia Benskina, Rouse)

6.”Meci Bon Dieu” (Frantz Casseus)

7.”In Martinique” (Lionel Belasco, Whipper)

8.”One for Five” (Rouse) – 7:05 Bonus track on CD reissue


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