Cal Tjader: Concerts In the Sun (2003)
Concerts in the Sun languished in the vaults for 42 years, but it's now finally available on CD. The recording finds Cal Tjader in a state of transition between the West Coast cool jazz he helmed with Dave Brubeck and a full-blown commitment to integrating Afro-Cuban rhythms into jazz. Culled from two concerts, one in Honolulu and the other in San Francisco, the first half features well-mannered standards and a distinct lack of perspiration; unfortunately, the five song routine seems overly rehearsed and detached.
Only in the second half, which features the dense polyrhythms of Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria, does the band really swing into gear. (Jazz historians will note the appearance of “Afro Blue,” a few years before Coltrane’s famous version.) However, despite the enthusiasm of the band, at this point Tjader wasn’t yet able to fully fuse the foreign rhythms and jazz concept into a convincing whole, so they come off like a bunch of guys who showed up at a black tie dinner wearing sombreros. The problem with much of Tjader’s music is that Tjader himself is frequently the least interesting thing about it; and only later, with classics like Black Orchid, was he able to create a distinctive and enjoyable Latin jazz hybrid. Of course Tjader fans will want to pick this up, but the mildly curious should explore the excellent Monterey concerts first.
Track Listing: 1. Love For Sale 2. Goodbye 3. Raccoon Straits 4. Walkin' With Wally 5. My Romance 6. Sigmund Stern Groove 7. Cubano Chant 8. Afro Blue 9. Tumbao 10. Day In, Day Out.
Personnel: Cal Tjader-vibes; Lonnie Hewitt-piano; Victor Venegas, Eddie Coleman-bass; Willie Bobo-drums; Mongo Santamaria-congas, bongos.