Cal Tjader


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Descarga is a merger of two albums recorded near the beginning of the '70s -- the fascinating studio session Aqua Dulce and the self-explanatory Live at the Funky Quarters. Having not yet lost his yen for adventure from the Verve days, Tjader neatly integrates Al Zulaica's Rhodes electric piano, electronic effects, and occasionally horns and voices into a bedrock Latin format, and the combination works even at its most outlandish. Two of the reasons why Aqua Dulce stays on track are the solid Latin percussion team of Pete and Coke Escovedo and Michael Smithe, and that Tjader's rippling, to-the-point, easily adaptable vibraphone manner hadn't changed a whit over the years. The title track, "Agua Dulce (Cool Ade)," is a lot of fun, with its electronic bubbling and straight Latin grooves, and Cal even tackles the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," adding pink noise and spacy obligatos from an early Moog synthesizer. Much of the live portion of the LP -- recorded at a San Diego nightclub in 1972 -- has a sound tied even more closely to its time, with Zulaica's electric piano, John Heard's bass, and Dick Berk's drums often creating textures that evoke the jazz-rock era. Smithe's congas merely add punctuation, except when Tjader himself joins in on percussion, thus creating some Latin action. Nevertheless, this live gig is quite enjoyable and energetic, sprinkled with new material and updated Tjader standards like "Cubano Chant," "Manteca," and "Soul Sauce III (Guarachi Guaro)."

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