Cal Tjader

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About Cal Tjader

A vibraphone master and jazz-fusion trailblazer, Cal Tjader was a composer and prolific percussionist who propelled the lounge music craze of the '50s and '60s with expansive productions dipping into mambo, bossa nova, and music from across Asia, including Japan, China, the Philippines, and more. Tjader's musical path was fated from the start: He was born in 1925 in St. Louis to touring Swedish vaudevillians—his mother an aspiring concert pianist and his father a tap dancer. He grew up in the Bay Area and joined the Navy in 1943, serving in World War II and attending San Francisco State College after his return. There, he studied timpani and met a young pianist named Dave Brubeck; they played together in multiple ensembles before embarking on separate, legendary jazz careers. Tjader was fascinated with Latin American rhythms, most notably Afro-Cuban jazz, while also drawing from Caribbean and Mexican percussion traditions and becoming a precursor of Latin jazz and acid jazz. His 1956 album, Tjader Plays Mambo, is a blueprint for silky, hip-shaking lounge sounds, while 1965's Soul Sauce gave jazz standards by Dizzy Gillespie and Mongo Santamaria a shimmering makeover. He invoked rock beats and electronic instrumentation for 1975's Amazonas, while his 1980 Latin-jazz opus, La Onda Va Bien, earned Tjader a coveted Grammy before his passing two years later.

St. Louis, MO, United States
July 16, 1925
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