21 DEC 11 JOHN C. BRUENING
In the late-1950s, Latin jazz was still mostly unexplored country north of the Equator. Vibraphonist Cal Tjader staked out a significant chunk of that territory with a hybrid sound that influenced not only musicians of his own era but scores of artists in the generations that followed. Recorded at San Francisco's famous Black Hawk in 1958, Cal Tjader's Latin Concert captures the bandleader and composer at the top of his game and in front of an appreciative crowd, generating an energy that's sometimes smoldering and sometimes incendiary. He does so with the help of a highly talented crew: pianist Vince Guaraldi, bassist Al McKibbon, Willie Bobo on timbales and percussion and Mongo Santamaria on congas.
In January, this release will be available again on vinyl for the first time in more than two decades. There's plenty here to like, including Tjader's "Viva Cepeda" and "Mood for Milt," two simmering pieces that start off the set. Santamaria's lively "Tu Crees Que?" and infectious "Mi Guaguanco" serve as the high-energy centerpiece of the nine-song sequence. Also in the set are Latin-infused renditions of Con Conrad and Herb Magidson's mid-1930s classic "The Continental" and Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant."
Each of the players here is clearly at the top of his game, but one of the standout figures is McKibbon, who had already delved into Latin jazz as part of Dizzy Gillespie's band a few years earlier. "Having Al in the band is an impossible dream come true," Tjader once said. This San Francisco date is part of the luscious soundtrack to that dream.