Cal Tjader

Our Blues: Concert on the Campus/Cal Tjader

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A two-for-one CD pairing of Tjader's 1957 studio album Cal Tjader with all but one song from his 1960 live LP Concert on the Campus doesn't seem like the most logical of matches. According to the back-sleeve blurb, the intent is to focus on Tjader's more straight-ahead jazz, rather than the Latin jazz for which he's probably better known. This does present a decent helping of his early straight-ahead jazz work, though hardly a definitive one considering his large discography. Tjader's self-titled 1957 LP was a sedate affair, using the backing of pianist Vince Guaraldi, bassist Gene Wright, and drummer Al Torre. The slower tracks aren't quite exotica, but they get close with their languid tempos and overall drowsy feel. Things perk up, though not raucously so, for more straight-ahead mid-speed numbers like "When Lights Are Low," "And Baby Makes Three," and Gerry Mulligan's "Line for Lyons," reaching their highest energy on "Our Blues." There's no Latin jazz here, just modest straight-ahead stuff centered around two long medleys, one of "Summertime/Bess You Is My Woman Now/Strawberry Woman," the other of "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)," "Willow Weep for Me," and "'Round Midnight." Concert on the Campus (presented here minus one track, "Rezo," omitted for space reasons) is better and livelier. Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria -- certainly Latin players, even if this isn't the most Latin-influenced of material -- lay down propulsive rhythms on "S.S. Groove" and "Moment in Madrid," interspersed with ballads by Gordon Jenkins and Cole Porter. Ray Bryant's "Cuban Fantasy" would certainly qualify as Latin jazz in the estimation of most, though its deviation from the album's overall theme shouldn't stop listeners from enjoying it.

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