THE DOZENS: GREAT VIBES by Scott Albin

Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, in the notes to his 1989 Overview release, made the following observations about his instrument: “It’s not considered in the forefront of the vernacular. To me, Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Red Norvo, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton, Cal Tjader, all these cats, their contribution to the vocabulary is significant and it’s not just limited to the instrument. It’s an instrument whose identity is not clearly, fully or specifically defined, still to the point that whenever I see any of the cats, Bobby, even Hamp, I always joke, ‘What is that thing called that you play?,’ because you experience it constantly. People come up to you on a gig, ‘Yeah, I like the way you play that thing you hit that thing real well,’ or they ask you what instrument do you play and you say, ‘Well, I play the vibraphone’ and it’s like ‘What is that?’ and you say ‘Well, you know what a xylophone is?’ and it’s like ‘Oh yeah, well, you mean one of those things like I had when I was a kid with the colors on it? You mean you play that professionally?’”


        

       The Vibraphonnist, artwork by Suzanne Cerny

Actually, the first two major players of the vibraphone in jazz, Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, each started on the adult-sized xylophone in the 1920s. The problem with the xylophone was that its wooden bars produced tones of very short duration and low volume, and that it had no pedal for sustaining notes. The newly invented vibraphone (or “vibraharp” both were trade names), with its sustaining pedal, vertical resonating tubes under the aluminum bars, and also small electrically powered rotating discs at the top of the resonators that gave notes a synthetic vibrato, allowed the performer much wider flexibility. (This was the 1927 Deagan model, the original primitive 1922 version being virtually unplayable.) The type of mallet used could also affect tonal quality.

Hampton, then primarily a drummer, dabbled with the vibraphone during a 1930 Louis Armstrong recording session, and began studying the instrument diligently. Discovered in 1936 by Benny Goodman, Hamp was invited to join B.G.’s hugely popular band as a vibraphonist, becoming a star in the process. Norvo did not entirely forsake the xylophone until 1944, coincidentally when he joined Benny Goodman’s Sextet. Norvo, however, played vibes with the motor switched off, eschewing artificial vibrato but gaining the ability to sustain notes.

The third major vibraphonist, Milt Jackson, emerged in the mid-’40s, and gave the instrument greater exposure through his many years with the preeminent Modern Jazz Quartet. (Milt’s distinctive dampened tonal quality was achieved by reducing the speed of his instrument’s rotating discs.) Jackson was followed by Terry Gibbs, Cal Tjader and Mike Mainieri in the ‘50s, Gary Burton, Bobby Hutcherson and Walt Dickerson in the ‘60s, Steve Nelson, Dave Samuels and Jay Hoggard in the ‘70s, Joe Locke in the ‘80s and Stefon Harris in the ‘90s. These and many other worthwhile vibraphonists have helped the instrument gain a respected, if not significant, presence in jazz, although it’s still not considered as essential to the standard jazz group as saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass and drums. If a vibraphonist can’t succeed as a leader of his own band, finding gigs as a sideman continues to be a challenge.

What follows are tracks by 12 of the most notable players of “that thing” who have all made their mark on the vital music we call jazz.


Chick Corea & Gary Burton: Four In One

Track

Four In One

Artist

Chick Corea (piano) and Gary Burton (vibes)

CD

Native Sense: The New Duets (Stretch SCD-9014-2)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Chick Corea (piano), Gary Burton (vibes).

Composed by Thelonious Monk

.

Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, 1997

Albumcoverchickcorea-garyburton-nativesense-thenewduets

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Charlie Rouse said that when Thelonious Monk first hired him in 1959, the leader taught him all Monk's tunes by playing them on the piano, except for more difficult ones like "Trinkle Tinkle," "Played Twice" and "Four in One," which Monk wrote out. On Corea and Burton's duet CD Native Sense, they saved the best for last, a rollicking performance of the tricky "Four in One." This was their fifth duet recording to date, and their first in 12 years, but their uncanny rapport made it seem as if they played together on a daily basis.

Corea's jagged, verging-on-dissonant intro sets up his madcap trip through the serpentine theme in loose unison with Burton, or, if you will, off-kilter counterpoint, accentuated by the pianist's sporadic smashed chords. Burton solos first, his trademark four-mallet intricate lines and warm vibrato on keen display, his playing, as always, both technically impeccable and openly lyrical. Corea's response is totally unpredictable, his swift, tumbling runs interspersed with jolting single notes and chords, as well as distorted allusions to stride, but somehow always keeping the melodic line in clear sight. He and Burton next exchange short passages in highly responsive and inventive fashion, before another refreshing, harmonically slack treatment of the theme, concluded by Corea's one last exuberant, Monkish "trinkle tinkle."

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Terry Gibbs: What's New

Track

What's New

Artist

Terry Gibbs (vibes)

CD

Feelin' Good: Live in Studio (Mack Avenue MAC 1022)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Terry Gibbs (vibes), Joey DeFrancesco (organ),

Gerry Gibbs (drums)

.

Composed by Johnny Burke & Robert Haggart

.

Recorded: live at O'Henry Studios, Burbank, CA, 2005

Albumcoverterrygibbs-feelingood-liveinstudio

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

When a superior jazz musician has played a particular standard as his ballad feature over many years, he can enhance and refine his approach until his performance becomes a thing of rare beauty and a privilege to hear. Such is the case with Terry Gibbs and "What's New," recorded live in the studio before a small group of invited guests. Tenorman Eric Alexander and guitarist Dan Faehnle sat this one out, and are probably heard applauding wildly at the track's conclusion along with everyone else.

DeFrancesco's silky intro and astute accompaniment, and the slick rhythmic support of Terry's son Gerry's brushes, offer Terry the perfect framework. The vibraphonist's vibrato and resultant sound reminds one of Lionel Hampton, who once asked Gibbs to join his band, an idea Hamp's wife/manager Gladys vetoed. Gibbs exhibits flawless technique, and his long phrases and harmonic development are both quite impressive, especially in the double-timed midsection of his solo, as well as in his dazzling coda. The ever-exuberant Gibbs was then 80, yet another jazz octogenarian aging like fine wine and not slowing down. The titles (and pace) of two of his originals on this session bear that out: "Smoke 'Em Up" and "Hot Rod." But "What's New" is undeniably the standout track.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Lionel Hampton: Flying Home

Track

Flying Home

Artist

Lionel Hampton (vibes)

CD

The Lionel Hampton Quintet (Verve 314-589-100-2)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Lionel Hampton (vibes), Buddy DeFranco (clarinet), Oscar Peterson (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Buddy Rich (drums).

Composed by Lionel Hampton & Benny Goodman

.

Recorded: New York, April 13, 1954

Albumcoverthelionelhamptonquintet

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

"Flying Home" was Lionel Hampton's signature tune, composed on his first-ever plane trip in 1939, as he, Benny Goodman and the rest of B.G.'s band flew one morning from L.A. to that night's gig at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. Years later, Hampton claimed to have cashed the thousandth royalty check for the song in 1964. The 1942 big band version featuring Illinois Jacquet was Hamp's big hit, but this intoxicating 17-minute track is his longest recorded version.

Hamp solos first after his and DeFranco's unison romp through the theme. The vibist's trademark metallic, chime-like tone and percussive attack are in full evidence here, as he moves from short repeated phrases to more intense, lengthier lines. By now the tempo has moved from medium to up, and Brown and Rich are in a tight, compelling groove, as Peterson comps animatedly. DeFranco launches a technically assured, highly expressive solo, the heat of it belying as usual the notion that he was a coolly unemotional player. The clarinetist is riffing la Hampton when not ripping off winding runs, and he also brings to mind Benny Goodman throughout his improv. Peterson follows with a bluesy relentlessness and joyful single-note lines. The tireless Hampton returns at about the 10-minute mark with a second, even more impressive solo, his phrasing and momentum simply mesmerizing. DeFranco joins Hamp for some spirited riffing as Rich starts hammering away even more earnestly than before. DeFranco soars through his own second solo at this point, with Hamp's and Rich's enthusiastic encouragement, the leader's vocal exclamations adding to the excitement. Hamp executes a spectacular run around 16 minutes in, as the band "flies home" to a satisfyingly smooth landing back on terra firma. You'd be hard pressed to find another 17-minute piece that flies by more quickly and entertainingly than this one.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Stefon Harris: Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta

Track

From the New Orleans Suite: Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta

Artist

Stefon Harris (vibes)

CD

African Tarantella: Dances With Duke (Blue Note 0946-3-41090-2-4)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Stefon Harris (vibes),

Steve Turre (trombone), Anne Drummond (flute), Greg Tardy (clarinet), Xavier Davis (piano), Junah Chung (viola), Louise Dubin (cello), Derrick Hodge (bass), Terreon Gully (drums)

.

Composed by Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn. Arranged and orchestrated by Stefon Harris

.

Recorded: Brooklyn, NY, August 29-31, 2005

Albumcoverstefonharris-africantarantella-danceswithduke

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

While Stefon Harris was in a Brooklyn studio during the last three days of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. How differently might Harris have arranged the three selections from Ellington's and Strayhorn's New Orleans Suite, which he recorded at that time, if he'd had the chance to observe and reflect upon the destruction of New Orleans by Katrina, and the disastrous aftermath?

Regardless, Harris produced moving and stunningly realized interpretations of these pieces, and the appropriately titled "Thanks for the Beautiful Land on the Delta" is a prime example of his skills as both vibraphonist and arranger. His mix of clarinet, flute, viola and cello, with an additional trombone vamp, opens the track, sounding like a much larger orchestra. Harris plays the prayerful, proud melody over this evocative backdrop, his reading fervent, uplifting and blues-tinged. His reflective solo follows, in which his glistening lines, crisp articulation and gorgeous tone combine to stunning effect there is such majesty and intelligence to his playing, with equal traces of Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson for good measure. Tardy's subsequent clarinet solo is both technically impressive and emotionally charged. The reprise, if anything, improves on the already memorable opening.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Jay Hoggard: The Fountain

Track

The Fountain

Artist

Jay Hoggard (vibes)

CD

The Fountain (Muse 5450)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Jay Hoggard (vibes),

James Weidman (piano), Marcus McLaurine (bass), Yoron Israel (drums)

.

Composed by Jay Hoggard

.

Recorded: Stamford, CT, July 10, 1991

Albumcoverjayhoggard-thefountain

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard began his career straddling the worlds of avant-garde and mainstream jazz, but gradually focused on straight-ahead fare. On his 1978 debut recording, the otherwise progressive Solo Vibraphone, he dropped in a version of "Air Mail Special" as a salute to one of his idols, Lionel Hampton. And Hoggard's most recent release, Swing 'Em Gates, is a full-CD tribute to Hamp.

On Hoggard's 1991 The Fountain, the title tune is an abstract, spiritual piece, the freest selection by far amongst worthwhile renditions of standards and jazz classics. Hoggard's vibes open the track tranquilly with cascading runs and a shimmering soundscape, accompanied by McLaurine's vivid arco bass. The vibes-bass textures intensify until drummer Israel finally enters the fray. Hoggard then introduces his first truly extended lines thus far, which add melodic substance to the piece, as the bassist bows an insistent ostinato. The next section commences with Israel's forceful mallet vamp, until Hoggard reemerges with a pulsing, circular motif over which the drummer improvises. Pianist Weidman now unexpectedly joins in, playing dissonant note clusters, urgent chords and then delicate tremolos. Hoggard returns to his earlier riff, and Israel to his previous vamp to bring satisfying closure to a compelling performance.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Bobby Hutcherson: I Am In Love

Track

I Am In Love

Artist

CD

Mirage (32 Jazz 32214)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Billy Drummond (drums).

Composed by Cole Porter

.

Recorded: New York, February 15 & 18, 1991

Albumcoverbobbyhutcherson-mirage

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

The 1968 Monterey Jazz Festival presented a concert entitled "A Generation of Vibers" (a nod to Philip Wylie), featuring Red Norvo, Milt Jackson, Cal Tjader, and the two emerging vibraphone stars of the 1960s, Gary Burton and Bobby Hutcherson. The latter's Blue Note recordings during those years revealed an individual stylist and prolific and accomplished composer. His distinctive chime-like sound, and his adventurous and technically proficient improvisations, which displayed effective use of space, attention to dynamics, and a creative way of sustaining and damping notes, all combined to give jazz one of its next major players. Hutcherson continued to refine his style to the point where every note seemed essential and every phrase and flight of fancy seemed to fall in place perfectly, and his interpretation of beautiful melodies both old and new became unbeatable. (He has also proven to be a masterful marimba player.)

On Mirage, his first-ever encounter with the distinguished Tommy Flanagan, Hutcherson chose a rare Cole Porter tune, "I Am in Love," for the diverse program, and his performance is an example of, and testament to, his brilliance. He offers an ardent reading of the theme and a soaring, exciting and spellbinding solo before Flanagan and bassist Peter Washington add their own impressive statements. Hutcherson has the last word, a priceless, highly embellished exploration of Porter's melody that differs vastly, due to its greater amplification, from the vibraphonist's more deliberate opening run-through.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Milt Jackson & John Coltrane: Be-Bop

Track

Be-Bop

Artist

Milt Jackson (vibes) and John Coltrane (tenor)

CD

Bags & Trane (Rhino 1368)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Milt Jackson (vibes), John Coltrane (tenor), Hank Jones (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Connie Kay (drums).

Composed by Dizzy Gillespie

.

Recorded: New York, January 15, 1959

Albumcoverjcoltranebags_trane

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

There was more to Milt Jackson than putting on a tuxedo with the Modern Jazz Quartet and performing what some perceived as soulless, overly refined and restrained jazz, usually in distinguished concert halls rather than smoky night clubs. Yet even with the MJQ, Jackson never lost his bluesy edge and found plenty of challenges in the music. Away from the MJQ, he'd enter the recording studio to enthusiastically engage outstanding musicians such as Lucky Thompson, Cannonball Adderley, Coleman Hawkins, Wes Montgomery and, last but not least, John Coltrane. Jackson had first played with Coltrane in Dizzy Gillespie's Sextet in the early '50's, but of course this was a much different Trane in 1959 the tenorman was just three months away from his breakthrough Giant Steps session.

Probably their past Gillespie connection led them to play Dizzy's "Be-Bop" amidst a repertoire of standards and blues. Coltrane takes the theme, then gives way to Jackson's bracing improvisation ably supported by Jones's assertive comping, Chambers's pulsing bassline and Kay's insistent cymbal beat. Jackson's brisk single-note lines speed by almost in a blur, and his rhythmically emphatic attack is accentuated by his characteristically pronounced vibrato. Coltrane solos with beseeching runs, slurs, wails and intervallic leaps, his momentum maintained confidently for the duration, although a bit of repetition in his then- characteristic "sheets of sound" approach becomes apparent near the end. Jones's concise solo is bop at its most thoughtful and engrossing. Bags and Trane then trade fours, Jackson's sparse phrases seemingly intended to provoke Coltrane's fertile imagination, which they succeed grandly in doing.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Joe Locke: Saturn's Child

Track

Saturn's Child

Artist

Joe Locke (vibes)

CD

Slander (and Other Love Songs) (Milestone MCD-9284-2)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Joe Locke (vibes),

Billy Childs (piano), Vic Juris (guitar), Rufus Reid (bass), Gene Jackson (drums)

.

Composed by Joe Locke

.

Recorded: New York, March 24-25, 1997

Albumcoverjoelocke-slander-andotherlovesongs

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Joe Locke has become one of today's most prominent jazz vibraphonists due to his technical mastery, versatility and composing ability. There is also a spirituality to his playing that sets him apart. The notes to Slander (and Other Love songs), for example, include the text of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi's "In the Arc of Your Mallet," as well as a quote from Mark Twain: "Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work." Seen in live performance, Locke physically appears to be a coiled wellspring of energy as he navigates challenging harmonic pathways at urgent tempos or reflectively amplifies the essence of slow ballads. "Saturn's Child" falls in the latter category; it's one of Locke's most beautiful compositions, which he frequently performs and has twice recorded.

Billy Childs's electronic keyboards (although he is listed only as a "pianist" on this session) set the soothing mood. Locke plays the contemplative, ethereal theme in unison with guitarist Juris, as Childs evokes a string section's highly sympathetic support. The underappreciated Juris solos movingly with crystal-clear lines and a warm, rich tone. Locke's improvisation is played with a ringing tone reminiscent of Cal Tjader. His phrases, like those of Juris before him, are vibrant and lucidly delineated, delivered soulfully and with understated passion. The reprise lets us indulge once again in the exquisite grace of this superior melodic creation.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Mike Mainieri: Straphangin'

Track

Mike Mainieri: Straphangin'

Artist

Mike Mainieri (vibes, xylophone)

CD

An American Dairy: The Dreamings (NYC 6026-2)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Mike Mainieri (vibes, xylophone), George Garzone (tenor sax), Marc Johnson (bass), Peter Erskine (drums).

Composed by Mike Mainieri

.

Recorded: New York, 1997

Albumcovermikemainieri-anamericandairy-thedreamings

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

As vital and inquisitive a musician as Mike Mainieri has been over the years, best known as leader of Steps Ahead, it's hard to believe he is turning 70 in 2008. Yet at age 15, he played on Paul Whiteman's radio show with his own trio, and was a Buddy Rich sideman from 1956 to 1963. He also won the New Star Award in the 1961 Down Beat Critics Poll. Rich, in fact, urged him to Americanize his Italian name to Mann, and therein lies a tale. His first An American Diary release in 1995 (with Joe Lovano), Mainieri wrote, "was a project that put me in touch with the dichotomy of musical tastes in my family." The second project, The Dreamings with George Garzone, he "dedicated to my family who introduced me to the art of storytelling, which they drew upon through their nomadic Italian and Sephardic wanderings and enriched my American heritage."

The track "Straphangin'" is described by Mainieri as "inspired by subway folklore. As a child, I would observe the body motions and facial expressions as my fellow straphangers would dance and bounce their way through the city." This led to a "fascination with puppets," which he would make and dress and "then attach their feet to vibe mallets and stage shows over the front of my instrument." He calls drummer Peter Erskine "the motorman of this particular ride." Erskine initiates a swaying subway car rhythm before Mainieri and Garzone play the choppy, staccato theme. Garzone's long breakneck tenor solo is intensely creative, with hurtling lines, slurred notes, dissonant wails and even a simulated train horn at one point, rhythmically exciting overall and relentlessly paced. Mainieri is less hurried but sizzling nonetheless, expertly on xylophone at first before switching to vibes, where only his vibrato differentiates his precise extended runs and expressive percussive attack. Erskine solos with great command and feeling before vibes and tenor ride the train to its final destination. Although nothing like "Take the 'A' Train," "Straphangin'" is just as invigorating in its own unique way.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Steve Nelson: New Beginning

Track

New Beginning

Artist

Steve Nelson (vibes)

CD

Live Session, Vol. 1 (Red 123231-2)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Steve Nelson (vibes), Bobby Watson (alto sax),

Donald Brown (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), Victor Lewis (drums)

.

Composed by Steve Nelson

.

Recorded: live at the Acireale Jazz Festival, Acireale, Italy, July 1989

Albumcoverstevenelson-livesession-volume1

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Steve Nelson has been quite visible as the vibraphonist in Dave Holland's Quintet and Big Band since the mid-'90s, yet has had surprisingly few opportunities to record as a leader. Having paid his dues as a sideman going back to the 1970s, perhaps now with his most recent well-received release Sound-Effect Nelson will, in his 50s, finally get to move center-stage for good.

When Nelson performed with his group at the 6th Acireale Jazz Festival in Italy in 1989, it appeared that the sky was the limit for him and his saxophonist Bobby Watson, both hot up-and-comers at the time. Their high-energy sets (there is a Live Session, Vol. 2) did not disappoint. The nearly 12-minute "New Beginning" starts with Nelson's and Watson's unison delivery of the alluring, upbeat theme. Nelson's extended solo is expertly paced and structured, one of his most outstanding recorded improvisations, jubilant and absorbing throughout. His swift, gliding lines and supercharged liftoffs on the turnarounds are particular highlights. Watson follows in his usual extroverted manner, his boppish phrases executed with flair through his piercing tone. His exuberant playing here comes out of the Phil Woods and Richie Cole school of intense bop/hard bop. Brown's rousing solo keeps up the pace, spurred on by Lundy's rock-solid basslines and Lewis's propulsive accents. Brown's superb comping, it must be added, along with the uplifting support of Lundy and Lewis help inspire Nelson and Watson to the heights during their respective solos. This was a tight band for the short time it lasted, probably assembled just for the European festival circuit that summer.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Red Norvo: Night and Day

Track

Night and Day

Artist

Red Norvo (vibes)

CD

Night and Day (Savoy, reissued 2007)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Red Norvo (vibes), Tal Farlow (guitar), Charles Mingus (bass).

Composed by Cole Porter

.

Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, May 3, 1950

Albumcoverrednorvo-nightandday

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Red Norvo was a fascinating jazz musician. On the one hand, he primarily played the out-of-fashion and limited xylophone up until 1944, and even after completely abandoning it for the vibraphone, basically clung to the style he'd developed on his old wooden-barred instrument. On the other hand, his playing was always hip and advanced, and he naturally embraced and fit in with the bebop movement, recording with Bird and Diz in 1945, and in 1950 forming one of the greatest of all small jazz groups the boppish Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus.

Norvo's trio was a perfect blend of creative improvisation, group interaction through their telepathic responses to each other, and intricate and flexible head arrangements. The medium-tempo "Night and Day" begins with Farlow's simulated bongo pattern, utilizing the body of his guitar. Norvo plays the well-known theme in his vibrato-less style, with Tal cleverly feeding him chords on the bridge. The guitarist then solos imaginatively with Norvo comping sensitively behind him and also contributing some effective melodic counterpoint. Red's own solo typifies his approach. Since he preferred to play the vibes with the motor shut off to preserve the more natural sound he felt he got from the xylophone, he uses tremolos, rapidly repeated single notes and artful arpeggios to compensate for the lack of vibrato, while using the pedal to sustain notes. It's the harmonic sophistication and melodic ingenuity one hears on this track that made his unique improvisational concept so successful. Norvo and Farlow then inventively split the thematic exposition to take the piece out. This is a rare selection where the usually dominant Mingus remains largely in the background. This edition of Norvo's trio lasted about two years, after which the leader tried to duplicate the magic with Jimmy Raney and Red Mitchell, but it was never quite the same.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Cal Tjader: Maramoor Mambo

Track

Maramoor Mambo

Artist

Cal Tjader (vibes)

CD

Soul Sauce (Verve 314-521-668-2)

Buy Track

Musicians:

Cal Tjader (vibes),

Lonnie Hewitt (piano), John Hilliard (bass), Johnny Rae (drums), Willie Bobo, Armando Peraza, Alberto Valdes (percussion)

.

Composed by Armando Peraza

.

Recorded: New York, November 20, 1964

Albumcovercaltjader-soulsauce

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Cal Tjader fell in love with Latin music early in his career, and from 1954 to his death in 1982 primarily led Latin jazz groups, with many of his fans assuming understandably but incorrectly that he must be Latino. The authenticity of Tjader's style, and his use of such top Latin percussionists as Ray Barretto, Willie Bobo, Armando Peraza, Poncho Sanchez and Mongo Santamaria, placed him at the forefront of the Latin jazz scene, and his music even influenced the later Latin-rock creations of Carlos Santana.

The short title track of his Soul Sauce album was as close as Tjader ever came to a hit record, but the longer "Maramoor Mambo" from the same session better highlights his distinctive metallic sound on the vibes and his relaxed, flowing and rhythmically engaging improvisational approach. Peraza's catchy mambo opens with hearty conga accents and firm piano chords as Tjader navigates the buoyant melody before surging into his driving solo, where Hewitt's montuno backing is a perfect complement. The pianist, a veteran Tjader sideman, follows the vibraphonist with his own dancing solo, displaying an appealing delicate touch and a spirited percussive attack.

"I'm not an innovator," Tjader once said. "I'm not a pathfinder. I'm a participant." Entertainer would be a better word, as Tjader left behind a body of work consistently joyful, unassuming and ingratiating.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


Add your comments here

Check out more ‘Dozens’ here