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Cal Tjader Plays the Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil

Cal Tjader

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Album Review

This 1962 set by Cal Tjader, recorded at the beginning of the bossa nova craze in the United States (released in the same year and on the same label as the smash Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd), has one of the most boring titles imaginable — which doesn't begin to describe the laid-back yet magical innovations in the grooves. Produced by Creed Taylor, the date was arranged and orchestrated by the great pianist Clare Fischer (who also wrote the liner notes). Tjader set out to offer a very modern portrait of the music pouring out of Mexico City by showcasing selected Mario Ruíz Armengol compositions and out of Brazil by spotlighting numbers by singers such as Elisete Cardoso and João Gilberto. Tjader's vibes are placed in juxtaposition with Fischer's piano and percussion by Changuito, Milt Holland, and Johnny Rae, with a woodwind section that included both Don Shelton and Paul Horn, and even some wordless exotica vocals by Ardeen DeCamp. In addition, Brazilian guitar star Laurindo Almeida helps out on about half the set and contributed "Chôro e Batuque," while Fischer offers "Elisete," named for the singer. The feel here is gentle with infectious rhythms and beautifully wrought woodwinds (check "Se é Tarde, Me Perdoa"), gorgeous piano, and spacious vibes. The arrangements by Fischer certainly represent the era, but they endure into the 21st century because of the shining example of interplay between the percussion and melodies (note the breezy "Silenciosa"). Tjader had been playing samba on records for a number of years by this point, and worked with Getz in 1957, but this was the first place he allowed his own complex yet delightfully subtle melodic (rather than just rhythmic) sensibilities to shine on the vibes. The most remarkable thing about this set is how effortlessly the two traditions blend. This disc was finally made available on CD in the United States in 2008 by Verve as part of their excellent Originals series.

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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Cal Tjader Plays the Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil, Cal Tjader
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