Music

Cal Tjader & Stan Getz: Sextet

Years before Getz/Gilberto, Tjader and Getz helped take Latin jazz to the masses with this nifty one-off.


Cal Tjader & Stan Getz

Sextet

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2011-03-15
UK Release Date: 2011-04-04
Amazon
iTunes

Cal Tjader’s name may not be one of the first that comes up in discussions of the "jazz greats". His influence, however, was huge. Critic Ron Wynn has referred to Tjader as no less than "The greatest non-Latin bandleader in Latin jazz history". Tjader got his start as drummer with the Dave Brubek Trio before taking up the vibes and joining George Shearing's band, where he played with Latin percussion legends Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo. Both Santamaria and Bobo would eventually join Tjader's band.

Stan Getz's legacy is also built in no small part on his affinity for Latin jazz. If you're even a casual fan of Latin jazz, or if you've ever been to a cocktail party, chances are you're familiar with Getz's work with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto. You know "Girl from Ipanema"? That's Getz on the flirtatious tenor sax. Both Getz and Tjader were primary forces in developing and popularizing the sound that was later made internationally famous by Carlos Santana, among others.

These days, it's anomaly to find a jazz reissue without bonus tracks or alternate takes. Sextet, however, has none. That's because there weren't any. Tjader and Getz knew each other, but had never played a session together until this one-off in San Francisco in February 1958. Yet, the natural chemistry between the two men was so great that they nailed the recording in a matter of hours. That effortless synergy is audible on the seven tracks here. The mutual respect is such that Tjader's even-handed vibes and Getz's lyrical sax never clash or compete for the spotlight. Rather, they complement each other.

For the most part, Sextet is focused on the bebop sound of the day. Tjader's three originals have an easygoing, sun-soaked flair. Tjader's vibes playing is deft and gentle, though far from the more spaced-out, some might say kitchy, "exotica" that Martin Denny and Les Baxter were dealing in at the time. Only pianist Vince Guaraldi's frenetic "Ginza Samba" is a truly afro-Latin composition. Perhaps this is why the original track listing has been altered to put it in the lead-off position. You have to remember, though, this was six years before Getz/Gilberto would define the Latin jazz sound for the masses.

Actually, the most effective numbers here are the ballads, which give Tjader's vibes ample space in which to shimmer. Still, it's Getz who makes Sextet something more than a transitional record in the catalogs of all involved. Fresh after recovering from a period of heroin abuse, the saxophonist is in fine form. His playing manages to be exuberant and casual at the same time. He's lushly romantic when laying down the melody to "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face", carefree when doubling guitarist Eddie Duran on "Big Bear", and irresistible darn near everywhere. When he comes in with an almost Roland Kirk-like burst two minutes into "My Buddy", the enthusiasm is palpable.

Sextet is notable almost as much for its sidemen as it is for its two leaders. Getz brought in bassist Scott Lafaro and drummer Billy Higgins, while Guaraldi and Duran came with Tjader. Lafaro would become highly esteemed for his work with the Bill Evans Trio, the landmark Portrait in Jazz included. Sadly, Lafaro is largely buried in the mix on Sextet, but when he is audible, he's amazing, often playing around and even behind the beat. Higgins would shortly break ground with Ornette Coleman before playing with Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, and many others. Guaraldi, of course, became synonymous with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts specials.

Yet, despite all the virtuosity involved and the strength of the song selection, Sextet suffers from a certain lack of warmth. Maybe it is the fact that these six men had never played together before, or maybe it's just an unsympathetic remastering job. This is a solid recording that you will appreciate, but might not feel on an emotional level.

Speaking of unsympathetic, the way journalist Ralph J. Gleason's original liner notes are butchered in the CD booklet is inexcusable. Did the folks at Concord hire a blind monkey to type them? It's a bit shocking from an esteemed name like Concord.

The oldest of the players on Sextet were in their early 30s. That Sextet is a relatively minor entry in their respective repertoires speaks to the magnitude of the accomplishments they would go on to.

6

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite the uninspired packaging in this complete series set, Friday Night Lights remains an outstanding TV show; one of the best in the current golden age of television.

There are few series that have earned such universal acclaim as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011). This show unreservedly deserves the praise -- and the well-earned Emmy. Ostensibly about a high school football team in Dillon, Texas—headed by a brand new coach—the series is more about community than sports. Though there's certainly plenty of football-related storylines, the heart of the show is the Taylor family, their personal relationships, and the relationships of those around them.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Mixing some bland "alternate" and "film" versions of Whitney Houston's six songs included on The Bodyguard with exemplary live cuts, this latest posthumous collection for the singer focuses on pleasing hardcore fans and virtually no one else.

No matter how much it gets talked about, dissected, dismissed, or lionized, it's still damn near impossible to oversell the impact of Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

Keep reading... Show less
4
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image