Cal Tjader: Prologue / The Jet Song


Prologue / The Jet Song


Cal Tjader (vibes)


Cal Tjader Plays Harold Arlen & West Side Story (Fantasy FCD-24775-2)

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Cal Tjader (vibes), Paul Horn (flute), Clare Fischer (piano, celeste),

George Roberts (trombone), Vincent D’Rosa, James Decker, Richard Perissi (French horns), Red Callender (tuba), Lonnie Hewitt (piano), Red Mitchell, Victor Venegas (bass), Shelly Manne, Milt Holland (drums), Mongo Santamaria (conga), Willie Bobo (drums, timbales); string orchestra


Composed by Leonard Bernstein; arranged by Clare Fischer


Recorded: probably Los Angeles, CA, October 18, 1960


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Prologues of musicals serve two main purposes: to introduce the major tunes and themes of the score, and to allow for the seating of late arrivals ahead of the play proper. But Cal Tjader's version of the West Side Story "Prologue" (segueing straight into "The Jet Song") keeps you on your feet instead. Too much of the accompanying album (arranged by pianist Clare Fischer) is weighted down by swooning strings, with Tjader's tjaunty vibes reduced to playing Bernstein's melodies, or comping while Fischer or Paul Horn supply the solos; but the opening 7 minutes is adventurous, propelled by both Latin Jazz and the elsewhere-intrusive yet here jet-assisted strings.

Cal gets his licks in on this one (as he does on a later keep-it "Cool"). A brief mysterious opening leads quickly to lilting strings, plucked and strummed and dancing, the different instruments as voices with Tjader up on top; then suddenly the strings are sawing and driving, timbales going Shark-fast, heading straight into the mixed conversation of "Jet," Fischer at the piano, Horn's flute, and Cal in the lead. Each takes a 4/4 solo (over walking bass), but with some tandem moments too, sometimes talking to each other, but with street-gang taunting, too. Now Cal takes control again, with brass and French horns adding sly commentary, till all shape a gorgeous return to the melody and final sendoff. (The strings and percussion add a quiet Basie-style tag as afterthought, allowing you at last to sit down.)

Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher

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