Cool Monterey Vibes


For some reason -- I'm blaming the warmer, sunnier summer weather -- I've been digging quite deeply into Concord's Cal Tjader bag. There's something so cool about the sound of Tjader's chiming vibes, and so hot about the Latin percussion that stokes up their rhythms, just melts together into the perfect summer sound. A preview performance for the second Monterey Jazz Festival (in 1959), Monterey Concerts (OJC, 1990) features the frostily cool vibesman in the front line with pianist Lonnie Hewitt and Paul Horn on alto sax and flute.

Even better, Monterey Concerts documents one of the hottest rhythm sections ever recorded, incendiary performances by bassist Al McKibbon with Willie Bobo on drums and timbales, and Mongo Santamaria on congas, bongos and other percussion. They simply don't stop killing these beats.

Santamaria's "Tu Crees Que?" provides the showstopper, a torrid percussion throwdown as hot, dangerous and steamy as any Afro-Cuban jungle thunderstorm. Tjader's band also incinerates "Afro Blue," which Mongo co-wrote with 'Trane, "Lover Come Back To Me," the closing "Tumbao," and "A Night In Tunisia," where Tjader pulls down the shade with a closing solo that resounds among his finest.

The Concord catalog is filled to overflowing with other Cal Tjader titles -- most recently, The Best Of Cal Tjader: Live At The Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-'80 on the Festival's own imprint (2008, MJFR), plus Cal Tjader's Latin Concert (1958, OJC) and Concerts In The Sun ('98, Fantasy). I look forward to mutually exploring a few more of them with you, too.