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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Live at the Club Macumba

Acrobat ADDCD 3084



CD 1
1. The Lady is a Tramp
2. Guarachi Guaro
3. Bill B
4. Mambo at the 'M'
5. For Heaven's Sake
6. Mamblues
1. Bill B
2. Guarachi Guaro
3. Philadelphia Mambo
4. Lullaby Of Birdland
5. For Heaven's Sake
6. Philadelphia Mambo

Cal Tjader - Vibes, cowbells
Vince Guaraldi - Piano
Eugene Wright - Bass
Al Torre - Drums, timbales, bongoes
Luis Kant - Congas


This double CD set comprises live sessions recorded at the Club Macumba in San Francsisco in 1956. Cal Tjader leads a small group of five or six musicians (there may be an unidentified bongo-player, although Tjader may be playing the bongoes when not busy on other instruments) but it makes a surprisingly full sound, almost equalling a big band.

Cal Tjader started as a jazz drummer, playing in Dave Brubeck's octet and trio in the late 1940s and early 1950s, where he got a taste for Cuban rhythms. Later he joined the George Shearing Quintet playing vibes and percussion (especially the bongoes) and most of the tracks here have a Latin beat. But Cal's jazz interests are clear in his choice of tunes like The Lady is a Tramp and Lullaby of Birdland, although both have a Latin rhythm.

This ensemble seems to have been formed fairly soon before the recording was made by broadcaster Ken Ackerman, so you can hear the musicians discussing what to play. Several tunes are repeated, suggesting that the group had not yet rehearsed a large repertoire. But this adds to the informality of the two CDs, as there is good-natured chat between the musicians, and Vince Guaraldi is often heard tinkling at the piano as if waiting for a decision as to what would be played next. In fact Guaraldi's solos are one of the main delights of this collection, as are Cal Tjader's vibraphone solos, which take centre stage.

When an audience member asks for a blues, the band launches into Bill B (a tribute to Count Basie), which is in straightforward four-four, without Latin percussion. It is interesting to compare the two versions of this tune, as it is to compare the other pieces which crop up twice. For instance, in the second version of Bill B, Vince Guaraldi accompanies Tjader's first solo chorus with a John Lewis-style counterpoint which is not in the first version.

The most animated tracks in this collection are the two interpretations of Guarachi Guaro, a tune written by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo. It is also known as Wachi Wara, Guachi Guara and Soul Sauce, and is probably most familiar for its distinguishing vocal break. Vince Guaraldi contributes lively solos to both versions, and Cal Tjader threatens to beat the cowbell into submission.

The sound quality is remarkably good, especially given that the recordings were made on reel-to-reel tapes, and they convey what must have been very pleasurable sessions. It is only a pity that the friendly conversation betwen numbers is not clearer.

Tony Augarde

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