The jazz world was immersed in controversy in 1965 when the bands of John Coltrane and Archie Shepp appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. Coltrane's own style was undergoing constant evolution, his lines more convoluted and explosive, his sound increasingly ranging to vocal cries and metallic abrasions. He had also become a figurehead of the "avant-garde" or "New Thing," an established star who provided a public forum for younger musicians and the creative ferment largely taking place out of public hearing.
This 1962 set by Cal Tjader, recorded at the beginning of the bossa nova craze in the United States (released in the same year and on the same label as the smash Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd), has one of the most boring titles imaginable, and it doesn't begin to describe the laid-back yet magical innovations in the grooves. Produced by Creed Taylor, the date was arranged and orchestrated by the great pianist Clare Fischer (who also wrote the liner notes). Tjader set out to offer a very modern portrait of the music pouring out of Mexico City by showcasing selected Mario Ruíz Armengol compositions, and out of Brazil by spotlighting numbers by singers such as Elisete Cardoso and João Gilberto…
One of the most successful, most recorded and most influential jazz players of his time, Cal Tjader is these days a largely overlooked figure in the music’s history. Part of the cause of his lack of recognition is present in the reasons he was so successful. Tjader made no great leaps forward harmonically or rhythmically, but instead showed how jazz and Afro-Cuban music could blend together with the vibraphone as the lead instrument, its percussiveness working very well in that musical context. In doing so, he was followed by many others, his commercial success affording him the opportunity to record a great number of albums.
Calvin Massey (1928-1972) is virtually unknown with the exception of both highly knowledgeable jazz scholars and a small coterie of illustrious musicians who remain alive and were immensely indebted to Massey s musical influence and mentorship. Massey was a father figure and close friend to many of the greatest jazz musicians of the post-World War era until his early death in 1972. Massey was a trumpeter, but was most noted as a composer of magisterial works, of which his epic opus was The Black Liberation Movement Suite, an extended work of nine movements. Until now, the work had never been recorded in its entirety. Cal Massey ranked among the greatest jazz composers of the 20th century, included with Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra.