Cal Tjader – In a Latin Bag

  • This outstanding copy of Tjader’s 1961 album for Verve boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last 
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present, the All Tube Analog sound here brings out the best in Cal’s music
  • A classic in the Latin jazz genre, with the unbeatable combination of Tjader’s vibes, Paul Horn’s flute and Lonnie Hewitt’s piano on most of the tracks, backed by Al McKibbon on bass and Wilfredo Vicente (Conga) and Johnny Rae (Timbales) on percussion
  • “Cal Tjader recorded prolifically for Verve during the first half of the 1960s, though this is one of his lesser-known dates … it is well worth snapping up if found”

This vintage Verve stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of In A Latin Bag have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on In A Latin Bag

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the vibraphone, keyboards and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

Ben Hur
Green Dolphin Street
Pauneto’s Point
Speak Low

Side Two

Mambo In Miami
Half And Half

AMG Review

Cal Tjader recorded prolifically for Verve during the first half of the 1960s, though this is one of his lesser-known dates… Two low-key pieces open each side of the disc, the first with a subdued treatment of “Ben Hur (Love Theme)” with Hewitt switching to clavietta (which sounds similar to a harmonica) and Tjader taking over the piano. The leader’s more interesting “Triste,” which is highlighted by Horn’s warm solo, sounds as if it is played on an alto flute. The remainder of the disc explores standards like “On Green Dolphin Street,” classic jazz (“Misty”) and entertaining originals by several members of the group…. well worth snapping up if found.