October 4, 2021- Today's Topic: Cal Tjader
Cal Tjader was one of the most well know latin jazz artists of all time and by far the most popular non-hispanic giants of latin music. He was born in St. Louis. His parents were of Swedish decent and were both in show business. They settled in San Mateo where Cal was somewhat of a child prodigy playing drums and tap dancing.
After a stint in the Army he enrolled at San Francisco State and met Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. He worked with them in Brubeck’s Octet and eventually a trio format. He taught himself to play vibes during this period.
He joined George Shearing in 1953 playing both vibes and bongos. The bassist with Shearing was Al McKibbon who was the bass player with Dizzy Gillespie’s band when Chano Pozo was a member. Al learned Afro-Cuban rhythms directly from Chano and encouraged Shearing to include more latin sounds. While the group was in New York, McKibbon took Tjader to see Machito and Chico O’Farrill which had a major affect on him. He also met Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo during that same trip.
When he left Shearing he returned to San Francisco and formed the Cal Tjader Modern Mambo Quintet. This led to many albums for the Fantasy label throughout the 1950s. During the sixties he began recording for Verve which led to his biggest hit: Soul Sauce.
In the late seventies Concord Records created a Concord Picante series specifically to record Cal Tjader.
He recorded in a variety of contexts throughout his very prolific career but will always be thought of as one of the most important latin jazz artists in the history of the music.