Compiled by Michael Weil
Pages in this Discography:
- Part 1: Early sideman dates and sessions for Fantasy, 1948-1961
- Part 2: Recordings for Verve and Skye, 1961-1969
- Part 3: Recordings for Fantasy and Concord, 1970-1982
First published in abridged form in 2013 and 2020; this complete version first published in September, 2022.
Introduction by Michael Weil
Callen Radcliffe Tjader, Jr. was born July 16, 1925 into a family of Swedish ancestry. He started tap dancing and playing drums as a boy and won a Gene Krupa drum solo contest at age sixteen. For a short biographical overview, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cal_Tjader.
A first version of this discography was published in 2013 as part of S. Duncan Reid’s book: Cal Tjader – The Life and Recordings of the Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz and then updated for the 2nd edition in 2020. For these printed versions the discography was abridged: it listed only first issues and current LP or CD reissues, disregarding compilations and edited tracks. This online version attempts to list all issues of Tjader’s music, as well as private audio and video recordings that are known to us, and TV and movie appearances. Only downloads have been omitted, as most of them are of questionable legitimacy and in most cases are not accompanied by track information.
Work on this project was started by Michael Weil more than fifteen years ago as an attempt to understand the scattered release pattern of Cal Tjader’s early sessions for Fantasy. Being a jazz percussionist, Mongo Santamaria was a figure of great importance and inspiration for him; it was only a matter of time until he found the great recordings made when he was a member of Tjader’s band. The music he heard made him a fan of Tjader as well, and with each new album he acquired, his admiration grew for Tjader’s contribution to jazz, and to Latin jazz in particular. Through the years he assembled an almost complete collection of the recordings Cal Tjader participated in – to listen to some rare items his only choice was to look for vintage vinyl and in some cases, even 78 rpm shellac records. When he asked questions on the Organissimo Jazz Forum he was contacted by S. Duncan Reid; when asked to contribute the discographical part and a glossary of instruments and musical terms for the book he accepted without hesitation. In interviews with most musicians that had played with Tjader that were still alive, and thorough research in newspaper archives, S. Duncan Reid was able to correct many details of dates and personnel on Tjader’s sessions that Michael Weil suggested after his analysis of the music heard.
This discography documents exactly who played which percussion instrument on individual tracks, other than the generic term “percussion” used by most discographers. Please look at the instrument abbreviations list for details. Instrument attributions are in almost every case based on listening to the recordings.
Song titles are as registered with ASCAP or BMI. “Guarachi Guaro” (this is the original spelling used by its composers, “Chano” Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie) is a special case – we always use the correct spelling while many others obviously transcribed by ear are found: Guachi Guara, Guachi Guaro, even Wachi Wara (Tjader himself admittedly had problems pronouncing some Spanish names correctly). Some obviously incorrect song identifications have been corrected; see the notes to individual session entries.
Incorrect spellings of musicians’ names have been corrected without notice; some are listed in full form with nicknames; a few examples:
- Al Torre: Fantasy often spelled his name “Torres” to make it appear Spanish, but he is of Italian descent.
- Terry Hilliard: some sources list him as John Hilliard. He confirmed he bears both first names.
- Rafael Miranda: His nickname was “Luis”; American sources often misspelled his first name “Ralph”.
- Bayardo Velarde: Tjader nicknamed him “Benny” as his first name was difficult to pronounce for him.
- Buddy Motsinger: some sources misspell him “Munsinger”.
Based on three main phases of Tjader’s recording career, this discography was divided into three parts. Some general remarks on these parts are necessary:
- Part 1: Early sideman dates and sessions for Fantasy, 1948-1961:
Before recording as a leader, Tjader was a member of Dave Brubeck’s octet and trio. Contary to previous credits on releases and in discographies, we found out he joined Brubeck only in 1948 (a separate discography of Brubeck’s early recordings is in preparation), so his recording debut was a Charles Mingus session in February, 1949. Furthermore, some private recordings adding to this part of the discography were discovered. Brubeck’s 1951 swimming accident in Hawaii ended the collaboration. After a short time leading his own trio (which recorded for Galaxy) as well as playing with local San Francisco musicians and the band of Alvino Rey (unfortunately no recordings survive from this), Tjader accepted a call to join George Shearing’s Quintet in January 1953. About a year later he split to stay in San Francisco after touring all over the USA and recording 24 tracks with Shearing as well as two straightahead quartet sessions for Savoy as a leader and his first Afro-Cuban sessions for Fantasy, which offered him a recording contract.
The MGM label issued the recordings of one of the most popular jazz instrumentalists of the time, George Shearing, on dozens of discs in all formats. This is the only part of this discography that is not yet complete – all the performances are listed, but several issues are still missing. So far I have listed several 12″ LP issues of the tracks with Tjader, Verve compilations including some of them, and one 4 CD box with all of the Shearing Quintet’s MGM tracks, the only complete issue of these recordings currently available (it does, however, not include piano solos and the tracks with Shearing playing accordion). The Shearing part of this discography is a work in progress and will be updated regularly to include all MGM issues.
The first decade of Tjader’s recording career saw many changes of release formats for sound recordings: 78 rpm shellac discs were the only format on the market when he made his first recordings, but by 1959 (the year the last 78 rpm records were manufactured) there were 45 rpm singles and EPs and 12″ LPs and the 10″ LP was already out of date. As the owners of Fantasy, Max and Sol Weiss, owned a pressing plant as their main business, all the formats were at their disposal, and they made deliberate use of them. Often a new format expanded playback time, which led to various new compilations of material already released in other formats. Some leftover tracks or alternate takes were used, while others were overlooked – thus a few tracks released on Fantasy 78/45 never were on LP or CD. Two of the Brubeck Trio tracks were released in alternate versions on the 10″ LPs, as I was able to verify by aural comparison. Except for the Nick Esposito and Vido Musso sessions, the two original Brubeck Trio tracks issued only on Coronet, and one Tjader track released only on a single, all of the early recordings were reissued on LP or CD. Fantasy LP issue numbers in mono started with 3-1 (10” LPs) and 3-200 (12” LPs); stereo issues started with 8000; see http://www.bsnpubs.com for release lists and cover pictures. Several details of the sessions differ from LP and CD credits; see the session jazzotes or text of the book for explanations.
- Part 2: Recordings for Verve and Skye, 1961-1969:
Tjader signed a contract with Verve in 1961 and recorded 15 albums until 1967. Among them was a collaboration with Eddie Palmieri which resulted in a counterpart LP for Palmieri’s contract label, Tico. Verve mono LPs beared the prefix V; stereo issues had V6. Some albums have not been made available on CD in complete form; single tracks are available on six Verve CD compilations that duplicate some popular tracks. Master numbers were attributed after the recording sessions, sometimes in LP track sequence when the master tape was assembled; re-takes made at later sessions in most cases were given the same master numbers. There are contradictions between various sources of information. By using the Verve discography by Michel Ruppli, and other sources S. Duncan Reid discovered, especially articles in Californian newspapers, we have tried to solve this problem as far as possible. Due to tapes being destroyed in the Universal vaults and lack of interest on the label’s side there is little hope for new reissues of Tjader’s Verve recordings.
After his contract was terminated when Verve was sold to MGM, Norman Schwartz and Tjader got together with his friends Gary McFarland and Gábor Szabó to found the Skye label, which folded in 1970 due to financial problems. Skye albums have been reissued on many labels; only the Dunhill CDs and recent Japanese reissues reproduce them in their original form.
- Part 3: Recordings for Fantasy and Concord, 1970-1982:
In 1970 Tjader renewed his association with Fantasy. Not all of the twelve Fantasy albums recorded after 1970 were reissued on CD; the last two albums were released on Galaxy which had been revived for jazz artists as Fantasy had become more of a pop music label. After one direct-to-disc production Tjader signed with Concord in 1979, which even started its Picante series as a proper outlet for Tjader as their first Latin Jazz artist; many others, Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria among them, would follow. Tjader remained with the label until his death and resumed recording as a sideman in a straightahead jazz context. His last dates for the label in January, 1982 were on albums led by singers Rosemary Clooney and Japanese Anli Sugano. The latter was released only in Japan but recorded in California. Tjader died after suffering a series of heart attacks while on tour in the Phillipine Islands, on May 5, 1982. He was 56 years old.
This discography was compiled with BRIAN, a custom made database software for musicological jazz discographies by Steve Albin – my thanks to Steve for this great software and his help whenever a problem arose. Many thanks to Noal Cohen and Michael Fitzgerald for their encouragement to use BRIAN; to Jack Woker for some very useful hints, the Tjader family and Michael Schwartz for their support, Wolfram Knauer of the Darmstadt Jazz Institute and the staff of this and other German libraries for their assistance, and to Stephan Veil for providing a rare Nick Esposito 78 for comparison. My biggest thanks, however, goes to S. Duncan Reid – without the information from his research and interviews there still would be many unresolved questions on the discographical side. I sincerely hope the publication of his book will gain him the recognition he deserves for his detailed research. As I am located in Germany, visiting US archives would have been rather difficult for me; I hope this example of international collaboration encourages other jazz researchers the world over.
S. Duncan Reid’s biography is highly recommended for anybody seriously interested in Tjader’s life and music and contains many details explaining differences to album credits and other widely available sources. One by-product of this research was the release of a double CD on the British Acrobat label with 1956 live reordings made at the Club Macumba in San Francisco: This album was announced but then withdrawn again. An inquiry with the label revealed problems with track identification that we were able to solve, identify the personnel, and narrow down the time span during which the music must have been recorded. See http://acrobatmusic.net/?cid=5&AlbumId=801
Sources for this discography:
- My personal record collection
- S. Duncan Reid: Cal Tjader – The Life and Recordings of the Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland 2013, 2nd ed. 2020
- Ian Rollins, Ritmo Caliente: Breaking 1950s Dichotomies and Cal Tjader’s “Latin Jazz”. Dissertation, Texas Tech University 2009 ()
- Doug Ramsey: Take five : the public and private lives of Paul Desmond. Seattle, Wash.: Parkside Publications, 2005
- Derrick Bang: Vince Guaraldi at the Piano. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2012
- Michael Wolff: On That Note. A Memoir of Jazz, Tics, and Survival. Redwood Publishing, 2022
- Michel Ruppli & Bob Porter: The Clef/Verve labels: a discography. New York: Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1986
- David Edwards, Mike Callahan, Patrice Eyries, Randy Watts and Tim Neely: Fantasy & Galaxy Album Discography.
- Doug Payne: Gary McFarland Discography
- Doug Payne: Skye Records Discography
- Tom Lord: The Jazz Discography Online