From the late 1950s until the end of his life, which ended too soon, vibist Cal Tjader (1925-1982) focused primarily on fusing jazz improvisation with the Afro-Cuban rhythms that have come to be called salsa. The bulk of music contained herein, however, more clearly illuminates Tjader's straight-ahead jazz origins, rather than the Latin-jazz that made him, hands down, that idiom's most popular Anglo artist. Recorded in 1957 and 1960, respectively, both in the studio and live, Cal Tjader and Concert on the Campus, the two LPs joined here, find him leading two different quartets featuring pianists Lonnie Hewitt and Vince Guaraldi. The live foursome is at times augmented by Mongo Santamaria's congas, which engage in fiery dialogue with Willie Bobo's timbales on Ray Bryant's "Cuban Fantasy," the most overtly Latin-flavored number in this set. Elsewhere, the mood is geared toward easy swinging, closer to the measured tones of the Modern Jazz Quartet, with dollops of blues, a generous helping of standards, and two sublime medleys, including "Porgy and Bess." And Tjader's brief, elegant original "Theme for Duke" could easily have been performed by the MJQ.
with Willie Bobo, Eddie Coleman, Vince Guaraldi, Lonnie Hewitt, Mongo Santamaria, Al Torres, Gene Wright