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Cal Tjader: The Very Best of the Concord Years



Cal Tjader - The Best of the Corcord Years

These recordings have captured the vibraphone artistry of Cal Tjader in what was to become the last years of his life. He was only signed to Concord in 1979, just six years before he passed away. These recordings come from sessions that led to recordings between 1980 and 1984. They are certainly memorable recordings not only because the vibraphonist is at the height of his powers – his playing is redolent of liquid fire that crackles and burns steadily in the momentous improvised swing that creates and then rides the rhythmic rush of music buoyant, and conga-infused, as well as in the hypnotic, riveting dalliances of the Cuban bolero where long silences punctuate echoes of radiantly beautiful single-note phrases and lines.

This is a mature Cal Tjader, whose playing is almost minimilist, at times reminiscent of an early influence – Milt Jackson, but always brimful of sad, Tjader-isms: notes that seem to fall off his vibraphone like so many tears, especially poignant on “Don’t Look Back” (Disc One) that features the legendary Hank Jones on piano . The disc also contains two gorgeous tracks with the sultry-voiced grandeur of Carmen McRae: “Evil Ways” and Consuelo Velasquez and Sunny Skylar’s “Bésame Mucho”. But perhaps best of all are the two songs by pianist Mark Levine: “Serengeti” and “Linda Chicana” – the former becoming a classic after numerous performances including this one and another by Mr Levine when he led a band of his own and recorded it on his eponymous solo record.

Disc Two begins with a mesmerising, and rhythmically shape-shifting and maddening version of “Swing Low” and also features a magnificent fluttering version of Ray Bryant’s famous song “Cuban Fantasy”. But the celebrated repertoire doesn’t end there. Immediately following is Cal Tjader’s iconic transformation of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s “Guachi Guaro” (a completely nonsensical term in itself) into what is often considered the spicier version of the song that Mr Tjader called “Soul Sauce” (first heard on Soul Sauce in 1964 and featuring Willie Bobo who uttered the now-famous combination of the call-outs “Salsa ahi na má … sabor, sabor!”). There is also a sublime version of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Carmen McRae backed by and Mr Tjader’s crisp vibraphone.

Also included here are two more songs by Mark Levine as well as others by equally accomplished writers. The two-disc package is brimful with virtuoso performances by flutist Roger Glenn, saxophonists Gary Foster, Scott Robinson, Mundell Lowe and percussionists Ramón Banda and Poncho Sánchez among other members Mr Tjader’s fine ensemble that remained with him until the end of his career. Overall this is radiantly beautiful music here getting – once again – the kind of attention it deserves yet again.

Track list – Disc One: Serengeti; Linda Chicana; Aleluia; Evil Ways; Close Enough for Love; Roger’s Samba; Quietly There; Bésame Mucho; Mambo Mindoro; Don’t Look Back; Bye Bye Blues. Disc Two: Speak Low; Will You Still Be Mine?; Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing; Cuban Fantasy; Guachi Guaro (Soul Sauce); Naima; Shoshana; The Continental; Santo Domingo; Mindano

Personnel – Cal Tjader: vibes; Mark Levine: piano and Fender Rhodes; Roger Glenn: flute and, percussion; Gary Foster: soprano saxophone and flute; Vince Lateano: drums, timbales and percussion; Rob Fisher: bass Poncho Sánchez: congas and percussion; Carmen McRae: vocals; Ramón Banda: timbales and percussion; Al Bent: trombone; Mike Heathman: trombone; Mundell Lowe: guitar; Hank Jones: piano; Scott Hamilton: tenor saxophone; Dean Reilly: bass

Released – 2004
Label – Concord Music Group
Runtime – Disc One – 56:22 Disc Two – 56:20

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Featured Albums

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá



Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot - Photo Nayeli Mejia
Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

Listening to the music of Siempre Más Allá, it certainly seems that the young French pianist, Adrien Brandeis has strengthened the belief that he is a proverbial citizen of the Afro-Caribbean universe. To be clear Mr Brandeis still loves all music and swings as hard as any pianist who loves Black American Music – that is, music that you can sing and dance to. But also continues to be beguiled by the rolling thunder of Afro-Caribbean music. The wild call of the rhythms and the joie de vivre of the questing melodies and harmonies not only appeal to his ear, but also speak to him in the hidden parts of his heart.

By his own admission Siempre Más Allá took root during three tours to Mexico undertaken under the aegis of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises du Mexique. The virtually all-Afro-Cuban repertoire of the album radiates charm at every turn. These disarmingly natural and eloquent performances bring out the music’s inherent drama and penchant for tumbao with a deft touch while indulging Brandeis’ lyrical instincts to the full. Meticulously balanced, the four quartet pieces, the trio and duo pieces feel as if they are chamber works. Brandeis’ astonishingly insightful playing is musically captivating and technically blemishless. Each phrase rings so completely true that one can’t imagine the music played any other way.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

The album features Mr Brandeis and a group of very accomplished musicians. These include the celebrated Cuban percussionist Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot [on two tracks] and his son Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., Mexican drummer José Loria Triay make up the wall of percussion. The Brasilian bassist Giliard Lopes brings his distinctive veritas to the whole rhythm section. The big surprise here is, perhaps, the presence of the great Cuban Horacio “El Negro” Hernández sitting in the drum chair on La buena vibra.

Siempre Más Allá is an affirmation of Brandeis’ enduring love and natural affinity for Latin music. Not surprisingly the music seems to echo the famous Latin American phrase: “¡Que rico bailo yo!” [which, in English, exclaims: “How well I dance!”]. This is no hyperbole as the music – in its pulses and rhythms show as Brandeis traverses the rhythmic topography of the Caribbean and Latin America. Along the way Brandeis plunged into the world of changüí, the chacarera, Brasilian gaucho music and the ancient melodic thunder of bàtá drums.

From the get-go listeners will find themselves immersed in quite another world of rippling percussive grooves. The track Ek Bakam, for instance, conjures the intricate architecture; the line and flow of an epic Mayan civilisation located in the Yucatan. Narratives from the Latin world abound – often paying homage to famous traditional musicians. Pancho’s Power is one such chart inspired by the vivid world of the legendary trio Los Panchos. Brandeis gives his percussion section a lot of space when he puts the spotlight on them on Tierra de Oportunidades – a wistful memory of the pianist’s three tours to Mexico, which is also incidentally the popular provincial slogan of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. On Huachi-Huachi Brandeis digs deep into the epicurean delights of the only Latin country in North America with this song in praise of a kind of gourmet Mexican fish: the huachinango.

Brandeis then celebrates his association with percussion colourist Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. with the extraordinary music of Vizcaíno Blues, a piece unique with its exploratory chromaticisms and elegant sonorities that beautifully capture the eloquence of the percussionist in whose praise the music is written. Mindful of the fact that Vizcaíno is Cuban but makes his home in Mexico, Brandeis shapes the rhythmic and harmonic palette of the piece accordingly. On La Buena Vibra Brandeis delivers astonishing pianistic fireworks in the piece’s melodic and harmonic lines, played at a frenetic pace, to mirror the style of its dedicatee, Michel Camilo. The pianist demonstrates an authentic home-grown grasp of Cuban music as he reimages Voy a Apagar la Luz, by the legendary and late-singer Armando Manzanero, here adapted as a wistful solo piano work. Meanwhile on the dizzying ride of Humpty Dumpty the pianist pays homage to another idol: Chick Corea, by revisiting the sparkling composition of the recently-deceased piano maestro.

It is hard not to be mesmerised by this spirited and finely nuanced music artfully crafted in an album by Adrien Brandeis, a pianist who is about to take the world by storm with a recording that is going to be one of the finest by any musician located outside the Latin American sub-continent.

Deo gratis…

Tracks – 1: Huachi Huachi; 2: Alegría; 3: Pancho’s Power; 4: Ek balam; 5: Un peu d’espoir; 6: Vizcaíno’s Blues; 7: Tierra de oportunidades; 8: Humpty Dumpty; 9: La buena vibra; 10: Voy a apagar la luz

Musicians – Adrien Brandeis: piano; Giliard Lopes: contrabass; José Loria Triay: drums; Roberto Vizcaíno Jr: congas and bàtá drums. Featuring Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot: percussion [1, 6]; Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: drums [9]

Released – 2022
Label – Mantodea Music Productions
Runtime – 58:25

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

YouTube Audio – Adrien Brandeis – Vizcaíno’s Blues

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