Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce

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  • Tjader’s 1965 Latin Cool Jazz release – dubbed “Mambo Without a Migraine” – arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing was simply bigger, livelier and more palpable than any of the other copies we played
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – Soul Sauce features jazz legends Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, and Jimmy Heath
  • 4 stars: “Soul Sauce is one of the highlights from Tjader’s catalog with its appealing mixture of mambo, samba, bolero, and boogaloo styles… he dodged the “Latin lounge” label with an album full of smart arrangements, subtly provocative vibe solos, and intricate percussion backing.”

This vintage Verve pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 Soul Sauce 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 1965
  • 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 Soul Sauce

  • 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, 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.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.  

The Players

Cal Tjader – vibraphone
Lonnie Hewitt – piano
Richard Davis, John Hilliard – bass
Grady Tate), Johnny Rae – drums
Willie Bobo, Armando Peraza, Alberto Valdes – percussion
Donald Byrd – trumpet
Jimmy Heath – tenor saxophone
Kenny Burrell – guitar
Bob Bushnell – electric bass

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Soul Sauce
Afro-Blue
Pantano
Somewhere In The Night
Maramoor

Side Two

Tanya
Leyte
Spring Is Here
Joao

AMG 4 Star Review

Soul Sauce is one of the highlights from Tjader’s catalog with its appealing mixture of mambo, samba, bolero, and boogaloo styles.

Tjader’s core band — long-time piano player Lonnie Hewitt, drummer Johnny Rae and percussionist’s Willie Bobo and Armanda Peraza — starts things off with a cooled down version of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s Latin jazz classic “Guachi Guaro (Soul Sauce)”. With the help of guitarist Kenny Burrell, trumpeter Donald Byrd, and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath they offer up a lively version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.” Sticking to his music’s “Mambo Without a Migraine” reputation, though, Tjader’s musicians keep things fairly calm, especially on Latinized ballads such as Billy May’s “Somewhere In the Night” and on midtempo swingers like “Tanya.”

On Soul Sauce, Tjader had perfected a middle ground between the brisk, collegiate mambo of his early Fantasy records and the mood-heavy sound of Asian themed albums like Breeze From the East. In the process, he dodged the “Latin lounge” label with an album full of smart arrangements, subtly provocative vibe solos, and intricate percussion backing.

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