Here are three sets of music by musicians associated under the expansive banner of Latin jazz. Stan Getz is usually credited with starting the fusion of Brazilian music, especially bossa nova. However, classically trained guitarist Charlie Byrd (and his sideman, perhaps most importantly the drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt) was among the first to go on a South American U.S. State Department tour, about a year before they put out their collaborative Jazz Samba. Vibraphonist Cal Tjader is arguably only known for his Latin jazz recordings but this great, underrated player also has roots in Dave Brubeck's and George Shearing's music.
The Best of the Concord
The Best of the Concord Years is a splendid Tjader collection and features great playing not only by Tjader, Pancho Sanchez, Hank Jones and Carmen McRae, but by somewhat less famous saxists Gary Foster and Roger Glenn, bassist Bob Fisher, drummer Vince Lateano and pianist Mark Levine. Compiled from at least five previous Concord sessions, this double CD set is worth the price of admission. Tjader had a unique sound, utilizing the pedal to blur notes more than most other vibraphonists. His rhythmic vocabulary is more diverse than many musicians of the period; a run of fast 16th notes could be followed by whole notes, then typical jazz eighth notes. Check out his enthralling version of "Naima .
Stan Getz/Cal Tjader
Sextet (a Super Audio CD), also a great album, is perhaps a little more towards the jazz than the Latin side of things than you might expect. Besides wonderful vibraphone and saxophone playing there are fantastic contributions by the "surprise sidemen: pianist Vince Guaraldi (known mostly for his Charlie Brown music that leans towards pop), guitarist Eddie Duran, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Billy Higgins. Despite the title, "Ginza Samba is an up-tempo swinger on which both Tjader and Getz really cook. It's easy to forget just how great a jazz saxophonist Getz is behind the smokescreen of all his fusions with bossa nova et.al. This tune, indeed the entire CD, will remind you of his immense talent. The jazz line in "Crow's Nest is a swinging original by Tjader. "Liz-Anne is also a gem of an original by Tjader in 3/4; in Stan Getz' tone you can almost hear this 1958 recording as a precursor to Getz' approach to Corea's "Windows in 1967. It's an excellent Getz performance and a wonderful glimpse into his creative approach as he is the only soloist.
Homage to Jobim
Homage to Jobim is the dud in this bundle of three Latin jazz sets, with only Allen Farnham's piano playing to save it from the plastic recycling bin. Though the playing is accomplished, it really seems conceptually thrown together and uninspired, especially standing next to these other two sets. Music to die in the old folks home by...corny, cheesy...the jazz harmonica being the coup de grâce.
The Best of the Concord Years
Tracks: 1 Serengeti Levine 5:04; 2 Linda Chicana Levine 5:19; 3 Aleluia Guerra, Lobo 4:09; 4 Evil Ways Henry 5:13; 5 Close Enough for Love (Theme from Agatha) Mandel, Williams 4:45; 6 Roger's Samba Glenn 4:27; 7 Quietly There Mandel 4:53; 8 Besame Mucho Skylar, Velazquez 5:24; 9 Mambo Mindoro Tjader 3:47; 10 Don't Look Back Dunham, Mandel 5:43; 11 Bye Bye Blues Bennett, Gray, Hamm, Lown 6:48; 12 Speak Low Nash, Weill 6:03; 13 Will You Still Be Mine? Adair, Dennis 3:32; 14 Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing Wonder 3:40; 15 Cuban Fantasy Bryant 5:31; 16 Guachi Guaro (Soul Sauce) Gillespie, Pozo 6:19; 17 Naima Coltrane 5:51; 18 Shoshana Levine 7:29; 19 The Continental Conrad, Magidson 6:08; 20 Santo Domingo Levine 3:28; 21 Mindano Tjader 7:03
Personnel: Ramon Banda: Percussion, Timbales; Al Bent: Trombone; Rob Fisher: Bass; Gary Foster: Flute, Soprano Sax; Roger Glenn: Flute, Percussion; Scott Hamilton: Tenor Sax; Mike Heathman: Trombone; Hank Jones: Piano; Vince Lateano: Percussion, Drums; Mark Levine: Piano, Fender Rhodes; Mundell Lowe: Guitar; Carmen McRae: Vocals; Marshall Otwell: Piano; Dean Reilly: Bass; Poncho Sanchez: Percussion, Conga; Cal Tjader: Vibraphone
Personnel: Eddie Duran: Guitar; Stan Getz: Tenor Sax; Vince Guaraldi: Piano; Billy Higgins: Drums; Scott LaFaro: Bass; Cal Tjader Vibraphone
Homage to Jobim
Tracks: 1 Favela DeMoraes, Jobim 5:24; 2 If You Never Come to Me De Oiliveira, Gilbert, Jobim 3:24; 3 Desafinado Jobim, Mendonca 6:53; 4 Once I Loved DeMoraes, Gilbert, Jobim 5:18; 5 Beyond the Horizon Araujo 3:38; 6 Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) DeMoraes, Jobim 11:38; 7 Watch What Happens Demy, Gimbel, Legrand 5:44
Personnel: Charlie Byrd: Guitar; Bill Douglass: Bass; Allen Farnham: Piano; Hendrik Muerkens: Harmonica; Ken Peplowski: Clarinet; Chuck Redd: Drums; Michael Spiro: Percussion