The brand new Cuban Fantasy
is an album of previously unreleased material Cal Tjader recorded in concert in San Francisco over two nights in June, 1977. Tjader's band had the same instrumental makeup as his 1969 Plugs In
band – vibes, electric piano, electric bass, trap drums, conga drums – with the addition of an electric guitar.
In the sixties, a few rock bands with radio hits such as the Kingsmen and the Swingin' Medallions had a reputation for specializing in college fraternity parties. Cuban Fantasy is the equivalent of a west coast/Latin jazz frat party band. If there ever was a jazz band suitable for a toga party, this was it. The emphasis is on rhythm, not melody. Only one tune, the ballad "Silenciosa," has an interesting melody. The other seven songs offer simple riffs repeated by pianist Clare Fischer throughout the lengthy interplay among the young Poncho Sanchez on conga, along with trap drummer Pete Riso and Tjader himself. When not playing the vibes, Tjader (who first made his name as Dave Brubeck's drummer) joins in on the timbales, cowbell and other percussion instruments.
Guitarist Bob Redfield offers solid solos very reminiscent of Carlos Santana on "Descarga Cachao" and "Tamanco no Samba." Pianist Fischer, who was with Tjader for his first Verve album in 1963, is given a prominent place throughout the performance. He soloes on nearly every track, and does a good job keeping the mood light and swinging. Pete Riso enjoys a lengthy drum solo on "Tamanco no Samba."
The album closes with Tjader's biggest hit, "Guachi Guara" aka "Soul Sauce." Rob Fisher gets a solo on acoustic bass, followed by Sanchez's best effort, and the crowd responds with enthusiasm.
Personnel: Cal Tjader (vibes, timbales, percussion);
Clare Fischer (elec. piano);
Bob Redfield (elec. guitar);
Rob Fisher (bass);
Pete Riso (drums);
Poncho Sanchez (congas, percussion).