Cal Tjader

Latin for Lovers With Strings

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The West Coast's leading vibraphonist, most of Cal Tjader's recordings for Verve in the 1960s took a middle road combining elements of jazz, Latin, and even easy listening music. His albums for Fantasy Records in the 1950s, however, often separated his many strengths instead of combining them -- Tjader would do a gritty Latin jazz session, follow it with a bop-fueled cool album, and then do a polite mambo album. Latin for Lovers with Strings is Tjader's mood music album for Fantasy, and the original liner notes state that the vibraphonist knew the pitfalls of making "make-out" music and wanted to do more than just sell records to those who didn't care about jazz at all. The good news is that Tjader succeeded, though the album will be of much more interest to lounge music devotees than to jazz fans. Tjader used his normal working sextet for the date (including pianist Vince Guaraldi, flutist Paul Horn, and Latin percussionists Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo), so that there is an underpinning of jazz to the swank lounge proceedings, even if all of the melodic solo statements are kept very short. A big part of the album's success is due to Jack Weeks' string charts, which rarely swamp the band and avoid being syrupy. If this album is "selling out," at least it's selling out in style. .