This 1962 set by Cal Tjader, recorded at the beginning of the bossa nova craze in the United States (released in the same year and on the same label as the smash Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd), has one of the most boring titles imaginable, and it doesn't begin to describe the laid-back yet magical innovations in the grooves. Produced by Creed Taylor, the date was arranged and orchestrated by the great pianist Clare Fischer (who also wrote the liner notes). Tjader set out to offer a very modern portrait of the music pouring out of Mexico City by showcasing selected Mario Ruíz Armengol compositions, and out of Brazil by spotlighting numbers by singers such as Elisete Cardoso and João Gilberto…
One of the most successful, most recorded and most influential jazz players of his time, Cal Tjader is these days a largely overlooked figure in the music’s history. Part of the cause of his lack of recognition is present in the reasons he was so successful. Tjader made no great leaps forward harmonically or rhythmically, but instead showed how jazz and Afro-Cuban music could blend together with the vibraphone as the lead instrument, its percussiveness working very well in that musical context. In doing so, he was followed by many others, his commercial success affording him the opportunity to record a great number of albums.
Calvin Massey (1928-1972) is virtually unknown with the exception of both highly knowledgeable jazz scholars and a small coterie of illustrious musicians who remain alive and were immensely indebted to Massey s musical influence and mentorship. Massey was a father figure and close friend to many of the greatest jazz musicians of the post-World War era until his early death in 1972. Massey was a trumpeter, but was most noted as a composer of magisterial works, of which his epic opus was The Black Liberation Movement Suite, an extended work of nine movements. Until now, the work had never been recorded in its entirety. Cal Massey ranked among the greatest jazz composers of the 20th century, included with Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra.
This two-LP set is the definitive early Cal Tjader album and one of the high points of his career. For a Monterey concert that was considered a preview concert for the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival, Tjader was teamed up with flutist and altoist Paul Horn, pianist Lonnie Hewitt, bassist Al McKibbon, Willie Bobo (on drums and timbales), and percussionist Mongo Santamaria. Their renditions of Latinized jazz tunes along with a few Latin originals practically define the idiom. Highlights include "Doxy," one of the earliest versions of Santamaria's "Afro Blue" (pre-dating John Coltrane's famous rendition by four years), "Love Me or Leave Me," and "A Night in Tunisia." Essential music for everyone's Latin jazz collection.
"Solar Heat" featured the vibraphonist and bandleader in a stellar group with conguero Ray Barretto, João Donato on organ, Michael Abene on harpsichord and Fender Rhodes, both McFarland (who arranged this recording) and Tjader on vibes, percussionist Orestes Vilató, and bassists Bobby Rodriguez and Chuck Rainey. It's a killer program of pop tunes like "La Bamba," and "Never My Love," as well as killer McFarland originals such as "Fried Bananas." Track list notwithstanding, this is one of Tjader's finest moments on record. His soloing and melodic invention is delightfully showcased as the logical center between Donato's brilliant organ playing and the crystalline arrangements.