Before the vibist Cal Tjader established himself in the early to mid-1960s as the leading Anglo proponent of Latin jazz, he was an engaging straightahead soloist. This disc finds Tjader (1925-1982) focusing on two of America's greatest composers, Harold Arlen (1905-1986) and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), both of whom were to varying degrees influenced by the rhythms and harmonies of jazz (and, in the case of Bernstein's score for West Side Story, Latin sounds). Aside from the leader, the common thread between the two LPs joined herein is the eloquent work of arranger Clare Fischer, whose services were enlisted for the last five selections of the Arlen collection, wherein the Tjader quartet is augmented by a string section, and for all of the West Side Story set. For the Oscar-winning Bernstein songs, Tjader had at his disposal a 26-piece orchestra, including 13 strings and three French horns. Rather than mere "jazz impressions" of two unquestioned geniuses of American music, Cal Tjader Plays Harold Arlen & West Side Story provides a superior example of how a gifted arranger at once honors a series of brilliant compositions while framing the soloist in consistently fresh ways.
with Willie Bobo, Red Callender, Clare Fischer, Lonnie Hewitt, Shelly Manne, Al McKibbon, Red Mitchell, Buddy Motsinger, Mongo Santamaria, and others