Cal Tjader: The Best of Cal Tjader Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival

For the late West Coast vibraphone master Cal Tjader’s entry in the series of live discs issued by the Monterey Jazz Festival’s archival record label, performances from his dates at the annual event have been cherry-picked, spanning five dates between 1958 and 1980. Aside from the gloriously consistent fidelity of all the recordings – the ’58 sessions sound just as crystal clear as the ‘70s and ‘80s recordings – the voice he developed apart from peers like Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson comes through loud and clear. Though his bop tunes from ’58 with pianist Vince Guaraldi, bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Willie Bobo are fine and dandy, it’s the Latin tracks that really put this disc over the top. Especially of note is the conga- and timbale-infused ’72 performance of “Mateca,” which stretches out for over 12 minutes and features fetching cameos from Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry, not to mention Mitchell Wolf’s awesome electric piano comping. Add a stately ballad from ’77 (“If You Could See Me Now”) and a little bossa nova (“Speak Low”), and Cal’s bases are pretty much covered here. (Monterey Jazz Festival 2008)

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