World & Latin

The Latin Revolution


Cal Tjader's Latino!, released by Fantasy in 1994, is actually a combination of two LPs originally released on the same label in 1960 -- Latino! and Demasiado Caliente.

The album captures the melting-pot sensibility of the legendary vibraphonist's band in the late-1950s, a time when immigrants from various Latin American countries, U.S.-born Latinos and American jazz musicians merged various musical ideas -- and in so doing, redirected the course of Latin and American jazz for the remainder of the century.

The album showcases six separate versions of Tjader's band, with a roster of soloists that includes flutist Paul Horn, saxophonist José "Chombo" Silva, and pianists Vince Guaraldi and Lonnie Hewitt. At the core in all six sessions are percussionists Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria.

Demasiado Caliente comprises the first nine tracks of the CD, and Latino! the last six. The high points are numerous, but "Tumbao" (written by Tjader) is especially noteworthy for its churning percussion interlude, courtesy of the aforementioned two-man team. The majestic "Bludan," a big-band piece written by pianist Eddie Cano, features flutist Modesto Brisano, who doubles on alto sax.

On the second half, the names change somewhat but depth and richness of the music remain intact. The hypnotic "Afro Blue" features Horn's flute acrobatics atop Hewitt's percussive piano lines, while Silva blows a controlled yet brilliant tenor sax on a freewheeling version of Dizzy's "A Night in Tunisia."

More than just a series of 14 Latin jazz tracks, the two recordings bound together in Latino! have served as a guidebook for both Latin and American musicians in the five decades since they were pressed.