The Cal Tjader Thread

Rudy

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I don't know that Curry ever performed with Cal, although Cal did give a nod to Curry's employer on his album Tjader from 1971, his first album after returning to the Fantasy label after recording for Verve and Skye Records.

 

DAN BOLTON

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I don't know that Curry ever performed with Cal, although Cal did give a nod to Curry's employer on his album Tjader from 1971, his first album after returning to the Fantasy label after recording for Verve and Skye Records.

Rood, could you do me a BIG solid and point me in the direction toward finding Cal's version of She's Leaving Home from that album? I've been looking all over for it and can't seem to find it anywhere. Spotify doesn't feature the album, and I'm not sure it was ever issued on CD. Amazon doesn't offer an mp3. There is a copy of the LP on Amazon currently, but I don't have the option currently of being able to use my turntable, and it doesn't have a A USB port, anyway.
 

Rudy

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@DAN BOLTON This album was only on CD in Japan, and I think it was $50+ (plus shipping) just to get ahold of one. I'm actually a bit surprised that it hasn't shown up digitally elsewhere in the world yet, as many of Tjader's albums on Fantasy have been released. The Prophet on Verve never had a US release on CD, but it's available on the music streaming services.

There could be copyright reasons why "She's Leaving Home" isn't posted on YouTube. I do have the vinyl but haven't had time to do a needle drop of it yet.
 

DAN BOLTON

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@DAN BOLTON This album was only on CD in Japan, and I think it was $50+ (plus shipping) just to get ahold of one. I'm actually a bit surprised that it hasn't shown up digitally elsewhere in the world yet, as many of Tjader's albums on Fantasy have been released. The Prophet on Verve never had a US release on CD, but it's available on the music streaming services.

There could be copyright reasons why "She's Leaving Home" isn't posted on YouTube. I do have the vinyl but haven't had time to do a needle drop of it yet.
I've heard a few cuts from the album via YouTube, enough to know I'd love the album, but never was able to find a useable copy.

A local FM station used to play Cal's SLH back in the late '70's, and I fell in love with it...seemed like the definitive arrangement after the Beatles, of course. Just the right blues groove with horns.
 

Rudy

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It's a good album, but I don't know that it's $50+ good, not when I have a good vinyl copy already. I think this was one of the records they pressed at RCA, since it is nearly dynaflex-thin. It sags when I hold it by the edges. 😁

Musically it's not in a style that was familiar to Tjader (accompanied by a larger band), and I know he wasn't too fond of rock or pop music, but he seemed to make peace with recording current numbers when he was with Verve, and this one mixed it up quite a bit. He covers Santana's "Evil Ways," two by Donovan, one from the Motown catalog, the Beatles cut, and I think only one Tjader original "I Showed Them" which was a response to a tune by The Byrds he was fond of, "They Showed Me."
 

JOv2

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Even with compilations and reissues, Tjader and Mancini still top the list
I need to get those last 3 Verve releases (Along Comes Cal, Hip Variations, and The Prophet). I'm genuinely surprised that the Japanese powers that be never issued CDs of these.
 

Rudy

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The Prophet was reissued on CD in Japan in 1999 (POCJ-2779) and 2015 (UCCU-90171). My Verve LP sounds really good too, despite a few minor ticks here and there. No groove burn! 👍 I thought it was kind of quirky at first, but now it's grown on me. The Hubert Laws flute parts and Sebesky's strings almost remind me of a CTi record. The digital download (lossless FLAC files) from Qobuz was only $8.99. Beats trying to import an out-of-print CD!

Hip Vibrations I thought was on CD at one point, but it wasn't. Odd album--I listened to it yesterday. One highlight is Herbie Hancock's soloing in a few places. The opening track is "Blues March," a cover of an Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers recording. The title track might be the best track on the album. Other than a lengthier track like "Blues March" where the soloists get some space, this one seems more like Tjader guesting on someone else's record. It also has a "mod" jacket to it, complete with a marijuana leaf in one of the collage photos.

Along Comes Cal, never on CD either. Musically it's one of my favorites. Interesting background to the album. There was a gig recorded at El Matador, but I understand that Al Zulaica was a bit unnerved by Tjader's attention to him during the gig and did not play well, so only one track was ever released: "Los Bandidos." And IMHO it's one of his best captured live performances--the group is on fire!


(It was a bonus track on the El Sonido Nuevo CD.) Anyways, I understand (from Cal's bio) that Verve had intended to release the gig on an album, but Cal soon recorded a set of tunes with Chico O'Farrill arrangements, and that ended up being the bulk of Along Comes Cal, with only "Los Bandidos" remaining from the El Matador gig. Some of the tracks are scattered over the various Tjader compilations on Verve, or as bonus tracks on an album CD.

Chico O'Farrill's album Married Well is another Verve record worth getting if you can find it. I think that was on an import CD as well. Once I heard this one, I could pick out O'Farrill's influence on Along Comes Cal.

I also recently found that In A Latin Bag was released on a two-fer CD with Friday Night, Saturday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco, from our friends at Cherry Red Records/El Records in the UK. The latter is a long-forgotten early album on Verve, the only straight-ahead jazz album he recorded for the label.
 

JOv2

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Thanks, Rudy, for the late-Verve ('67-68) Cal crash-course.

My first Cal recording was Sone Libre -- bought it in the mid '80s ("Made in West Germany"). It's still my go-to Cal. I learned over the years that it's quite different than most of the other Verves owing to the presence of Clare Fischer. For one thing it doesn't have that "Verve sound"...no overdubs.

(I had a chance to speak briefly with Clare in the late '80s. As a starving college student, I couldn't afford to attend a performance of his at the local university; however, I was a part-time janitor and knew the layout of the theatre and was able to get into the back of the stage just as the show ended. He came out and I was right there waiting for him!! Just he and I for about 30 seconds. In any event, I mentioned Sone Libre. I told him I was an organist and noticed that he didn't use a Leslie on the recording, which was unique for jazz organ recordings. He told me that he actually "had a fight with Creed" about it. Creed insisted that he use a Leslie but Clare told Creed that Brazilian organists didn't use Leslies (note all those Walter Wanderley recordings) and that he wanted to be true to the Brazilian style. Thank goodness Creed backed down.)

After Sone Libre, I started at the beginning with the Fantasy releases and the Modern Mambo Quintet release (1954). A+ all around -- and the vocal numbers were a welcomed surprise. I do like the '50s/Fantasy period better than the more commercial '60s, but -- with the exception of "the dumb album" -- I truly enjoy Cal's records.

I'm definitely going to look for those three final Verve recordings.

It's somewhat fitting that he hooked up with Szabo and McFarland with Skye Records -- all three artists seem to share an overlapping muse of sorts...

(You know, next I'm going to ask about Plugs In -- the title leaves me wondering what he's plugged in...an electric vibraphone?)
 
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Rudy

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It could be that he plugged in his microphone for the vibes. 😁

The Skye Records venture was a disappointment, and the three learned that having their own label wasn't as freeing as they imagined it would be. Cal only did three albums before deciding to go back to Fantasy, vs. recording for a label headed for bankruptcy. There was another gig in the can that never got released until DCC released it as Latin + Jazz = Tjader. (And it strangely threw in "Nica's Dream" from Plugs In.)

He was a regular at The Blackhawk and also El Matador, as well as Concerts by the Sea. Also a regular at many of the jazz festivals out there through the 50s and 60s.
 

Moritat

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"Breeze from the Men's Room" is what Tjader called it...

Yeah, Tjader said that during an interview right after the LP was released. I'm guessing the management at Verve wasn't thrilled with the comment.
 

JOv2

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(William Claxton photo, 1954)

DSC01736.jpg
 

Bobberman

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I don't know that Curry ever performed with Cal, although Cal did give a nod to Curry's employer on his album Tjader from 1971, his first album after returning to the Fantasy label after recording for Verve and Skye Records.

Now That's A Great Cover Cal Gave it his own unique approach to it
 

Rudy

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Now That's A Great Cover Cal Gave it his own unique approach to it
It was a somewhat unique album with its brass section on many of the tunes--there are others on YouTube. He'd had a brass section on the album Hip Vibrations also, but in a different style.
 

Rudy

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Moderator note: I combined discussions from two separate threads here into a Cal Tjader thread. So if some of the discussions seem to wander, it's for that reason.
 

Rudy

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As for Breeze from the Men's Room East, Tjader mentioned in a Down Beat interview that he thought Breeze was "a dumb album", adding that "Creed...tried for a sound, and when I heard it, I went outside and vomited -- figuratively, not literally."

From the bio--Herb Wong was a DJ and host on KJAZ, and this is what transpired on his interview:

"[Cal] was on my KJAZ radio show to discuss his latest project," recollected Herb Wong. "I said, 'What would you like to tell us about it, Cal?' He said, 'I don't want to tell you anything about it.'​
'Okay, do you want to tell the folks what the name of it is?'​
'Well, you know what it is. It says Breeze from the East. As far as I'm concerned, it's Breeze from the Men's Room.'​
'What do you mean by that, Cal?'​
'The project stinks, man. It isn't the music that I wanted to put on, but the powers that be made a decision and this is what the product is.'"​

Another page in the bio hints at another reason he might have disliked the album--at the time he was not a big rock and roll fan, thinking it was some passing fad, and Stan Applebaum had incorporated a rock beat into a couple of the tunes on the album. Yet on the Eddie Palmieri/Cal Tjader album Bamboleate, recorded only a short time later, the final track "Come and Get It" had a driving rock beat to it, and Tjader propelled it over the top with his playing.

The one good thing (perhaps the only good thing) about the album was the jacket, with the painting "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Here's an example of how miserably that album failed. Here's "Cha," complete with faux Oriental "chopsticks" intervals and a rock beat.


The entire album wasn't infected, though. This is a fine update of his classic tune "Black Orchid."

 

JOv2

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As for Breeze from the Men's Room East, Tjader mentioned in a Down Beat interview that he thought Breeze was "a dumb album", adding that "Creed...tried for a sound, and when I heard it, I went outside and vomited -- figuratively, not literally."
I knew nothing of its sordid history when I bought that Several Shades Of Jade / Breeze From The East Verve 2-fer back in the late '90s. I do recall I was disappointed with both recordings upon my initial listening.

Given my Blue Note / impulse! sensibilities at the time, I knew I was taking a risk purchasing any Verve '60s release bestowing the Creed Taylor Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval; but, holding Sone Libre to very high regard, and enjoying Soul Burst, Soul Sauce and Plays the Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil as well, I picked it up straight away when I first saw it. After my initial listening and disappointment, I simply filed it in with the "pop" releases of "that" ilk (right after The Kirby Stone Four -- where it remains to this day). It took some time to warm up to Jade -- which is OK I guess; by, Breeze remains a trite and unoriginal album.

Given the recent brouhaha, I spun it. I hadn't played it in well over 20 years. I think during the third or fourth selection I figured I had had enough and took it off. 🥴
 

Rudy

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I'm the opposite--I think Jade is one of his better Verve albums, largely due to how Schifrin did the arrangements. The easiest way is to contrast the two albums. Breeze was one of those instances where it seems the arranger needed to hit listeners over the head that this was an "Oriental" album, with a lot of the cliché motifs that remind listeners of kimonos and fortune cookies and just about any far-Eastern stereotype that could be dug up. Whereas Schifrin used his passion for ethnomusicology to base his arrangements on the musical scales of different cultures, hinting rather than suggesting (or beating listeners over the head) with the ideas. ("The Fakir" is perhaps the best example on the album, and provided interesting intervals for Tjader to improvise against.) In fact, that is why "Tokyo Blues" fits into the album so well--Horace Silver does the same thing on his album, using hints of Asian scales and intervals versus making his arrangements blindingly obvious to the Japanese influence.

Jade also helped turn me on to Schifrin's larger body of work, so, there is that as well. 😁 I can't say it's a perfect album, but there are enough good tracks that I still enjoy it decades later.
 

Rudy

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I created these playlists in tandem for another site, and will share them here.


The early Fantasy recordings:



The Verve recordings, short version:



The Verve recordings, full version:



There are four more playlists forthcoming in the series within the next six weeks (we publish every two weeks), and the way I arranged them, they are all about a CD's worth of tracks (except for the Verve "full version" which is like a two-CD set).
 

JOv2

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I'm the opposite--I think Jade is one of his better Verve albums, largely due to how Schifrin did the arrangements.
Yes, I'm sure I short-changed Schifrin here (and I do like most of his '60s film/TV scores)...but for me, vibes (and marimba) are best in small ensemble settings. Their sound is too delicate to be place along side numerous orchestral insruments (particularly piercing trumpets and squacky saxes). I have all of Bobby Hutcherson's '60s Blue Note releases and all of Gary Burton's '60s RCAs; Burton (with one unique exception) and Hutch kept the ensembles small and intimate. Hutch opened up a bit with occasional sax and trumpet, but these cats always retained Hutch's chamber feel, which is where I like the vibes and marimba -- and one of the reasons I like Sona Libre as much as I do.
 

Rudy

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One album where the vibes don't work out so well for me is Hip Vibrations--arrangements are by Benny Golson and Bobby Bryant, and it's almost as though Tjader's a sideman on his own album. That one is kind of brass-heavy.

He's not quite so buried on the Fantasy West Side Story album, and the combo gets a couple of tracks to themselves (like "Cool").
 

JOv2

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The Prophet was reissued on CD in Japan in 1999 (POCJ-2779) and 2015 (UCCU-90171)
The 2015 issue is currently available from YesAsia for $12.75. Shipping is $14; so the out-the-door price is about $27 + tax. I just ordered it up, yesterday. This will be a happy addition; now all I need is Solar Heat.
 

Bobberman

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The 2015 issue is currently available from YesAsia for $12.75. Shipping is $14; so the out-the-door price is about $27 + tax. I just ordered it up, yesterday. This will be a happy addition; now all I need is Solar Heat.
AH Now You're in for A treat with Solar Heat you will enjoy that one
 

Rudy

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The 2015 issue is currently available from YesAsia for $12.75. Shipping is $14; so the out-the-door price is about $27 + tax. I just ordered it up, yesterday. This will be a happy addition; now all I need is Solar Heat.
Good score--they commonly sell for a lot more these days since there are not many left.

The 2-on-1 CD In A Latin Bag/Saturday Night, Sunday Night at the Blackhawk is even rarer. The second is a perennially overlooked album that he recorded early on for Verve--the only straight-ahead gig he recorded for the label. The former sounds very much like his early Fantasy records, and was the first he recorded for Verve. This is the CD. If you trust ordering from Italy, you can still get one for ~$28 shipped. I got mine from a seller in France.


I wish they had released more tunes from the gig at El Matador, from which "Los Bandidos" (on Along Comes Cal) was taken. But apparently the pianist Al Zulaica was at odds with Tjader (I think he had just joined the group) since he felt as though he were being scrutinized constantly and therefore, did not play well. The irony is that Cal was easygoing and easy to get along with, so it was only Zulaica's discomfort. He would continue with Tjader for several years, so whatever discomfort he had went away quickly. But "Los Bandidos" was such a smokin' track that it makes me wonder what we're missing.

Likely the tapes for that gig are lost to time, or buried in Verve's vaults. Verve was based on the east coast so there's a chance some masters might be stored on that side of the country. But anything lost in the Universal flambé of course is not recoverable.
 
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