Cal Tjader and Stan Getz

Isn’t it weird how your taste in music broadens the older you get? While I have to boast a little and state the fact that I was always open to a variety of music styles since the tender age of 12 (Wham, Bach, Chicago, Simple Minds, Brahms and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Is that broad enough for a 12 year old? I would hopefully think so!) I have become more encompassing the older I have become. Interestingly enough, this also includes some pretty old music.

Well, not quite early baroque/late medieval grooves, but late fifties, early sixties stuff. I was already into late Bebop and early Cool, but then I started to find out about musicians like Baden Powell and Cal Tjader who would introduce an incredible South American influence into the whole genre, and somehow I seem to be hooked. I have been carrying around the classic Bossa Nova album by Getz/Jobim/Gilberto in various forms (vinyl/tape/mini disc/cd/Ipod and now again vinyl) since I was 21, but it’s introduction into my life has caused a never ending chain reaction of seeking more recordings that are similarly satisfactory to that original trigger.

So now I am now again looking for vinyl that satisfies my brazilian jazz cravings. Since I have been finally equipped with a proper living room I have invested into a proper turntable and dug out my vinyl collection. This has been a revelation: the heavily compressed tracks we listen to these day on CD and Itunes just don’t prepare you for the sheer dynamic of a vinyl track in which loud is allowed to be loud and quite allowed to be quiet, so the advent of my vinyl finds of Baden Powell and Cal Tjader has been a revelation. These vinyl discs I have rescued from some obscure flea market are in gorgeous coulours, more than 45 years old and sound amazing. Yes, there is the odd crackle and pop, but my Klipsch Horns really savour the challenge of some proper dynamics on these classics, so it’s a delight to have them on turntable.

Which leads me finally to my current turntable filler: ‘Stan Getz With Cal Tjader‘ is such a cool album, I can’t overstate what a terrible hole this would leave in your record collection if you wouldn’t order it now. It obviously features Tjader’s and Getz’s virtuosity on their respective instruments, but so much more. The first seconds of the first track, ‘Ginza Samba’ miraculously shazammed such a broad smile on the best girlfriend ever’s face that I immediately knew I bought a winner. And indeed , it’s an incredible album that not only lives from the two main protagonists but also from those amazing chaps that make up Tjader’s sextet: especially Eddie Duran on Guitar and of course the great Vince Guaraldi (before he became famous with the ‘Peanuts’ soundtracks) make this unforgettable.

Well, it’s gotta be better than the new JLS album, innit??

The Muir Woods Suite

I first stumbled over George Duke when I bought Back on the Block. On one of the tracks, ‘One man woman’, there was this amazing keyboard solo I couldn’t get enough of. You could tell this was an artist comfortable on a synth, a confident user of his slide control wheel and who would use his 30 seconds of glory on a track like this to the max. The fact that Siedah Garret did some outstanding vocal work and Herbie Hancock was there as well certainly helped, but it was Duke’s solo I really liked. So I did some research and was astounded that he was not only Zappa’s keyboarder and was playing with Jean Luc Ponty in Zappa’s houseband back in the early seventies, but that he was influenced by Cal Tjader, played with Cannonball Adderley and pretty much everybody in the American Soul and Jazz industry I  got curious. So I bought the Muir Woods Suite, Duke’s only orchestral work to date, performed live at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1996 (and, as far as I can tell, this is the only recording). Scored for orchestra and band, this features Duke on piano, Stanley Clarke on bass,  Chester Thompson on Drums and Paulinho Dacosta on percussion. Stirling musicians for an extremely interesting piece of music. Somewhere between Gershwin and the German romantics of the late 19th century and hard bop, the 7 movements (or phases) are a well arranged interplay between the orchestra and Duke’s jazz fellows, with some sterling piano work and outstanding melodies.

Much more than mood music or ‘smooth jazz’, this is an outstanding composition that begs to be performed again.

The best festival of the year?

Toots Thielemann, Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham, Randy Brecker, Matt Bianco, Nile Rodgers, Jazzmatazz and Level 42. All at The Hague Jazz Festival.

It is time to visit Holland in spring.

See you all there.