Cal Tjader – Vibraphone – (July 16, 1925 – May 5, 1982)
Cal Tjader was born on July 16th in 1925 in Saint Louis, Missouri and that fact surprises me! See I thought that Tjader was Latin! I discovered Tjader’s music, because he plays vibraphone and Gary Burton’s album For Hamp. Bags, Red and Cal, led me to it! As “I listened to his Latin influenced music I just assumed that he was Latin. But in fact he is the son of touring Swedish American vaudevillians! His father tap danced and his mother played piano, a husband-wife team going from city to city with their troupe to earn a living.His father taught him to tap dance. He performed around the Bay Area as “Tjader Junior,” a tap-dancing wunderkind. He performed a brief non-speaking role dancing alongside Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in the film The White of the Dark Cloud of Joy!
From those humble beginnings Tjader went on to become one of the most successful non-Latino Latin musicians From his biography at All Music…..
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.
In addition to Carlos Santana, Dave Pike, Spyro Gyra’s Dave Samuels, and Ruben Estrada are a few artists who name Tjader as an influence. Tjader is often linked to the development of Latin rock and acid jazz. Tjader. over the course of his career explored other types of jazz, he always returned to the music of music of Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America. He won a Grammy in 1980 for his album La Onda Va Bien, capping off a career that spanned over forty years
The first Cal Tjader album that I listened to was Cuban Fantasy released in 2003 and I really enjoyed the album. From AllMusic review by Ken Dryden:
Cuban Fantasy consists of previously unissued selections from two 1977 concerts by Cal Tjader at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, though this is anything but an example of clearing out tape vaults simply to issue new product. Joined by pianist Clare Fischer, conga player Poncho Sanchez, guitarist Bob Redfield, bassist Rob Fisher, and drummer Pete Riso, Tjader energizes the crowd with his interpretation of Ray Bryant’s infectious “Cuban Fantasy,” switching over from vibes to timbales to build it to an exciting climax. Fisher contributed the subtle “Guarabe,” while the engaging arrangement of Mongo Santamaria’s “Tu Crees Que?” would have had the audience on their feet dancing had this been recorded outdoors. This is one of Cal Tjader’s best groups, and it is a shame that this music remained hidden for a quarter century.
While I have written this post I have listened to one of Tjader’s most successful releases Soul Sauce. I just got to tracks 11 and 12 where I hear the guitar of the one and only Kenny Burrell!! Overall. it’s been a great listen!!
Links for Further Explorations of the Music of Cal Tjader
Here’s the birthday boy, Cal Tjader with the title track from Soul Sauce…….