“Listen -Moneypenny – MP3″
This’ll be a relatively quick one.
As is so often the case these days I find myself at the end of the day running on fumes.
I hope everyone has had a chance to check out Monday’s edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast.
I actually spent two days of the extended weekend out in the field, digging and managed to pile up a pretty nice stash of wax. It’s been several months since I’ve had the opportunity to do any serious (in person) digging, and I had the extra benefit of having my wife at my side. Back in the day, before the tots came along she used to accompany me on digging expeditions quite often and even pulled a couple of exceptional records in the process (as she did this time out).
Though a lot of the stuff I grabbed is more along the lines of Iron Leg, there were also a couple of choice morsels in the soul and funk line, which will of course find their way into this space before long.
I’ll also be putting a bunch of the weekend’s finds into a guest mix for Vincent the Soul Chef over at Fufu Stew, which is looking to be very cool. If I can find the time I ought to have it assembled and ready to go (at least ready for Vincent to schedule a slot) in the next week.
Today’s selection is a gem from a previous dig that I’ve been holding onto for a while.
Cal Tjader has been featured here before, and will certainly make the scene again in the future. One of the preeminent vibraphonists of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Tjader went from his early days as a sideman (on drums) with Dave Brubeck to a place on the leading edge of the Latin jazz scene.
By the mid-60’s, Tjader had recorded LPs in a variety of settings for Verve, working – as were many of his contemporaries – a fair share of pop oriented material into his discography.
That this was a recurring motif in the world of jazz is without dispute. The conventional wisdom has been that these players were recording covers of current pop material solely as a grasp for relevance, and almost as importantly, cash., which unfortunately has taken on a pejorative cast.
Certainly, not every jazz musician was a proper fit for covers of pop material, and consequently this resulted in a lot of uninspired music making its way onto vinyl.
However, there were many jazzers – and I would put Cal Tjader near the top of this list – who’s style and attitude was well suited for these settings; players who looked at working with modern pop material (interestingly enough, something jazz musicians had done for decades) as an opportunity to do something interesting.
One of the other musicians in this group, was a fellow vibes player (and arranger) Gary McFarland. In 1968, McFarland, Tjader and Gabor Szabo joined forces to form the Skye record label. Over the next few years all three of these musicians would record albums for Skye, along with Grady Tate, Armando Peraza and others (McFarland having some involvement – as producer/arranger – on most of the label’s product).
Tjader’s 1969 LP ‘Cal Tjader Sounds Out Burt Bacharach’ was one of finest in the Skye catalogue.
Composed entirely of Bacharach covers, ‘…Sounds Out..’ featured several fine examples of Tjader’s unique pop/jazz fusion. The finest of the album’s tracks (at least in my opinion) was his cover of a track from the ‘Casino Royale’ soundtrack, ‘Money Penny Goes For Broke’ (listed on the 45 as ‘Moneypenny’).
Bacharachs instrumental themes from ‘Casino Royale’ have always been a fave of mine (when I was a kid I recorded parts of the soundtrack off of the TV onto a cassette player). Tjader takes ‘Moneypenny’ and moves the focus from the muted trumpet of the original onto his vibes, bringing the snap of the drums and bass up in the mix at the same time. The record features Tjader playing with a number of West Coast studio heavies, including Jim Keltner on drums and Mike Melvoin on organ. The arrangement by McFarland is outstanding, and a little less diffuse than the kind of things he was doing on his own albums at the time.
By 1970 Skye – which had produced a number of memorable (if poor selling) albums, folded. Tjader soon returned to Fantasy, where he spent most of the 70’s. Sadly, a year later McFarland was mysteriously served a drink spiked with methadone, and died instantly, prematurely (he was only 38) ending an interesting and productive career.
Tjader himself would die young, at age 57 in 1982.
I hope you dig the tune.