Cal Tjader: America
Cal Tjader (vibes)
Cal Tjader Plays Harold Arlen & West Side Story (Fantasy FCD-24775-2)
Lonnie Hewitt (piano), George Roberts (trombone), Vincent D’ Rosa, James Decker, and Richard Perissi (french horn), Victor Venegas (bass), Milt Holland (drums).
Composed by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
Recorded: Los Angeles, October 18, 1960
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Immigrants have been coming to America's shores for a millennium, and some witty reflections on that fact can be found in the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical West Side Story. Those nice Jewish boys fashioned jazzy, semi-Latin music featuring lyrics detailing the experiences of street punks and...Nuyoricans. (Huh?) But their composer chutzpah resulted in a work of sarcastic genius-especially in the sassy number "America."
Vibesman Cal Tjader laid down his lilting cover version in 1960. Minus the lyrics, claves and sticks start the dance, Tjader shimmers briefly, a French horn trio issues the call-out, and from then on, the solo moments pretty much belong to Tjader's fleetfoot vibes and to the airy, Afro-Cuban flute of Paul Horn. The saucy back-and-forth, snap-and-strut of the original staging echoes through pianist Clare Fischer's arrangement, which contains various horn "voices." The verbal jabs and teasing comments are tamed and prettified, though, leaving light Latin music as fresh as the island's tropical breezes-any NYC immigrant dis-ease subdued if not entirely passed over.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher