This is the 90th birthday of Cal Tjader (1925-1982). Tjader may have been best known for his pioneering Latin jazz, but in the late 1940s and early ‘50s with the Dave Brubeck Trio, he was respected for his mainstream drumming. Pianist Hank Jones told me that when he played on Tjader’s 1953 record session for Savoy, Tjader became one of his favorite drummers. After he formed his own band and concentrated on vibraharp, Tjader’s Latin recordings with sidemen like Mongo Santamaria, Armando Perrazza and Willie Bobo achieved huge popularity. Even so, his groups always balanced straight-ahead music with the Latin. One of Tjader’s most engaging recordings, reissued here, included Eugene Wright, who was his bassist until Wright joined Brubeck later in 1956. The pianist was Gerald Wiggins, the drummer the underrated Bill Douglass, a master of wire brushes.
The first tune, Wiggins’s “A Fifth For Frank,” is illustrated with the cover shot of the original album. For reasons that only YouTube could explain, the final two videos show the cover of an unrelated album. Ignore that. Just close your eyes and enjoy three pieces from a one-time encounter of four superb musicians.
For fellow blogger Steve Cerra’s Jazz Profiles report on Duncan Reid’s 2013 biography of Tjader, go here.