Having finished his tenure with George Shearing in 1954, a thoroughly Latin-inoculated Cal Tjader took off on his own, recording several short slices of infectious Latin jazz, from which a dozen were selected for this album. Many of the selections are standards retrofitted with percolating Latin rhythms, cut and shaped to fit the old three-minute limit of 45 or 78 rpm singles. Tjader's crystalline vibes are teamed with a San Francisco Latin percussion section that lays down the grooves crisply and succinctly, with an occasional emulation of the more laid-back Shearing Latin sound ("East of the Sun"). Elsewhere, Cal experiments with a hot four-man trumpet section on four of the tracks, the best of which is a rhumba version of "Fascinating Rhythm." The earliest Tjader-led recording of "Guarachi Guaro" (later known as "Soul Sauce") is also included here. These seminal tracks helped launch the Cal Tjader Latin jazz style, and they still sound fresher than many other such historical landmarks.
Tjader Plays Mambo Review
by Richard S. Ginell