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Soul Bird - Whiffenpoof

Cal Tjader

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Album Review

In the '60s, R&B was a much larger market than jazz. While John Coltrane or Art Blakey could fill a small club like The Village Vanguard, James Brown and the Temptations were selling out large auditoriums — gone were the days when jazz was very much a part of popular culture and Benny Goodman's name was all over the pop charts. Soul's popularity wasn't lost on Verve, which is why some of Cal Tjader's '60s LPs had titles like Soul Sauce and El Sonido Nuevo: The New Soul Sound — Verve wanted the baby boomers who were buying Stax and Motown releases to notice Tjader as well. However, Soul Bird: Whiffenpoof isn't the R&B-drenched project that some might expect it to be. Tjader's vibes solos are soulful in that he plays with a lot of feeling, but he isn't trying to be Marvin Gaye. Produced by Creed Taylor in 1965, Soul Bird: Whiffenpoof is primarily an album of laid-back cool jazz that has strong Latin leanings — Latin as in Afro-Cuban ("Tin Tin Deo"), Latin as in Brazilian ("Samba de Orfeu"). Taylor has always believed that post-swing jazz doesn't have to be devoid of commercial appeal, and he sees to it that Tjader has a groove-oriented outlook whether he is embracing the standard "How High the Moon" or giving Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings" a bossa nova makeover. The funkiest thing on the album is Tjader's version of Sonny Rollins' "Doxy," which he approaches as a boogaloo. But overall, these performances are more cool jazz than soul-jazz. Soul Bird: Whiffenpoof (which Verve reissued on CD in 2002) isn't among Tjader's essential albums, but it's an enjoyable demonstration of the vibist's ability to be a bit more commercial than usual and still maintain his bop-based integrity.

Biography

Born: 16 July 1925 in St. Louis, MO

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Cal Tjader was undoubtedly the most famous non-Latino leader of Latin jazz bands, an extraordinary distinction. From the 1950s until his death, he was practically the point man between the worlds of Latin jazz and mainstream bop; his light, rhythmic, joyous vibraphone manner could comfortably embrace both styles. His numerous recordings for Fantasy and Verve and long-standing presence in the San Francisco Bay Area eventually had a profound influence upon Carlos Santana, and thus Latin rock. He also...
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Soul Bird - Whiffenpoof, Cal Tjader
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