One of the most unique albums of Cal Tjader's career, 1963's Several Shades of Jade is a collaboration with composer and arranger Lalo Schifrin that transposes the vibraphonist's musical travels from Latin America to the Far East. This is no more traditional Asian music than Tjader's similar albums from this period are traditional Latin music, but the pair wisely avoids the standard clichés of Asian music (no smashing gongs after every musical phrase or melodies that sound like rejects from The Mikado). Instead, Schifrin frames Tjader's meditative vibraphone solos in arrangements that strike a cool balance between western kitsch and eastern exotica, never tipping too far in either direction. Although the follow-up album, Breeze From the East, is rightfully panned by just about everyone whose idea of Asian music doesn't begin and end with the Vapors' "Turning Japanese," Several Shades of Jade is actually an interesting experiment that succeeds more often than it fails.
Several Shades of Jade Review
by Stewart Mason