Autobiographical Order No. 212: Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce

I’ve written before about my most eye-opening introduction to jazz being Miles Davis. I’m sure a lot of other people have similar experiences. And they should: Miles was the greatest. And from there I discovered Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, etc. But also in that group was Cal Tjader, a Swedish-American vibraphone player and Latin jazz bandleader whose reputation has never been as respected as that of some of those other artists I mentioned, though he had some really excellent records.

Tjader’s style of jazz tended to be more concise and accessible, a bit like the pop jazz of the ’60s, I suppose, though that sounds cheesier than it actually is. He had a lot of really excellent Latin jazz jams, though, and on a series of mid-’60s albums with “soul” in the title, he hit a kind of artistic peak. The centerpiece of the trio, Soul Sauce, is the most boogaloo of the three, meaning that it incorporated a blend of Latin and R&B sounds. Though it’s not a boogaloo album proper. That being said, it does feature the playing of Willie Bobo, who recorded one of the best boogaloo tracks of all time: “Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries.” More on that in a bit.

Soul Sauce actually has some remarkable musicians on it: Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, Lonnie Hewitt. It’s a pretty stellar session jam going on in there. It’s also a fun record to listen to, lively, upbeat and with a lot of catchy melodies that sometimes more serious jazz musicians evade. (Which is fine! But sometimes you just want something with a little more swing to it.)

This was a record swap find, a bit worn around the edges on the sleeve and likely an original stereo issue of the album. So no, it’s not in near mint condition but I also didn’t pay that much for it. I do, however, enjoy the hell out of it, and a few months after I bought it, my wife and I started a periodic tradition of having “Latin brunches,” wherein we’d make pancakes or eggs and put on a Latin jazz record. We still do that, and I’ll get into it more in a bit, but for now I’ll just leave you with this: Cal Tjader never released anything as ambitious as Bitches Brew or A Love Supreme, but damn if he didn’t bring the jams.

Rating: 9.3

Sound Quality: Good

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