Before Cal Tjader made his mark on the Latin-jazz front, he was a fine straight-ahead player and probably the best vibraphonist on the West Coast. This two-fer CD is made up of two early albums recorded for Fantasy that show how well Tjader worked in conventional settings. Despite his West Coast pedigree, the live half of the CD shows that vibraphonist is a tougher customer than one might expect; songs like S.S. Groove and "Moment in Madrid swing hard and would sound right at home on one of Bobby Hutcherson's Blue Note albums. An off-kilter 5/4 rendering of "Love For Sale and "Cuban Fantasy (an early Latin experiment) show the adventurous leanings that would lead Tjader into world music explorations. The studio half, recorded three years earlier, is more restrained and well-mannered and thus ends up being flat. Although the quartet successfully connects the dots on a compelling medley of "Lover Man, "Willow Weep For Me, and "'Round Midnight , the rest of the album fails to excite. One may be tempted to blame Guaraldi, who lacks the powerful drive that Hewitt displays on the live recordings, but it's just as likely that Tjader had yet to find his niche. At any rate, a welcome reissue.
Track Listing: S.S. Groove; Goodbye; Moment in Madrid; Love For Sale; Then I'll be Tired of You; Theme For Duke; Cuban Fantasy; Medley: Summertime/ Bess, You Is My Woman Now/ Strawberry Woman; When Lights Are Low; Our Blues; That's All; And Baby Makes Three; Medley: Lover Man/ Willow Weep For Me/ 'Round Midnight; Line For Lyons.
Personnel: Cal Tjader-vibes; with (on 1-7) Lonnie Hewiit-piano; Eddie Coleman-bass; Willie Bobo-drums, timbales; Mongo Santamaria-congas (#7 only) on (8-14) Vince Guaraldi-piano; Gene Wright-bass; Al Torres-drums.