Tjader’s Vinyl Fantasy


The Cal Tjader Trio -- originally released on 10-inch vinyl from sessions recorded in 1951, and newly issued on vinyl to celebrate Record Store Day 2013 (April 20th) -- marked the percussion master’s debut for Fantasy Records, with Tjader quickly showing off his vibes, drum and bongo chops in rhythmic tandem with bassist Jack Weeks while splitting the piano chair between John Marabuto and Vince Guaraldi (in his own recording debut).

You’d be hard pressed to come up with a tune that’s more played out than “Chopsticks,” but Tjader’s Latin-ized “Chopsticks Mambo” bursts into full and colorful bloom from his lively bongos and percussion. Tjader rips open the middle of “Ivy” with a double-timed passage that melts his percussion into a singular rhythmic blur, while “Three Little Words” shoots out of its gate like a sprinter and Guaraldi’s piano and Tjader’s drums match each other riff for riff.

Tjader’s vibes chime like a pealing Sunday morning church bell to sing this “Lullaby of the Leaves,” and delicately mirror the reflective melancholy of “These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You).”

The Cal Tjader Trio foreshadows the rhythmic and melodic genius that blossomed through the rest of Tjader’s career. These vinyl tracks emerged in the digital age on Extremes: Cal Tjader Trio/Breathe Easy (Fantasy, 1999), which opens with these eight tunes (Tjader’s first Fantasy sessions) and ends with his last Fantasy album, Breathe Easy (1977).