Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and trumpeter Red Rodney were around for the infancy of bebop in the 1940s and four decades later (this recording is from 1984) have refined their artistry while retaining the vigilance so crucial to the genre's ensemble synergy. Social Call brims with split-second timing on baton-passed solos, and natty harmonizing on Don Sickler's tricky unison head arrangements. Throw in an ace, active, agile rhythm section and you've got synergistic bop that's both mature and frisky. Throw in an ace, active, agile rhythm section and you've got synergistic bop that's both mature and frisky.
Rouse's own “Little Chico” is Social Call's quintessential track; the tenorist snaps off hunks of angular phrases with his distinctively acrid tone (both trademarks of his decade-long stint with Thelonious Monk), while Rodney's trumpet ripples in assent. The rhythm section is especially piquant, with bassist Cecil McBee either playing electric or turned way up in the mix. Gigi Gryce's title track is as casually upbeat as its name implies, gently rolling and stress-free, with Rouse and Rodney calling to each other like birds in the woods. More superb baton-passing defines “Half Nelson,” complemented by the comping of pianist Albert Dailey and Kenny Washington's perfectly-timed splashes of ride cymbal. Dailey, perhaps best known for his association with Stan Getz, unfurls a plush red carpet for Rouse's subsequent solo on the standard ballad, “Darn That Dream,” and the long wait for a McBee solo is amply rewarded with his inspired take on “Casbah.”
The bonus outtakes, while interesting, don't match the quality of the original selections. Rouse and Rodney emerge from the gate with a tad more lethargy on the alternate “Social Call,” for example, and Dailey's piano intro is significantly truncated on the alternate “Darn That Dream,” although Rouse's solo is exquisite on both renditions.