Born July 16, 1925, in St. Louis, Missouri, Cal Tjader was originally a drummer and played with George Shearing. He came to prominence, however, as a vibraphonist. I remember Mongo Santamaria accompanying him on congas at the "Village Gate" in 1961. I never heard anything as exciting in my life! My career was beginning to take shape--even if I didn't realize it at the time.
Cal Tjader had studied music in San Francisco and had come up through the ranks with Dave Brubeck, Alvino Rey, Willie Bobo, Vince Guaraldi, and Mongo Santamaria. His discography is enormous and includes close to one hundred albums as leader and many as "sideman"--with the likes of Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Rosemary Clooney, Tania Maria, Anita O'Day, and Carmen McRae. As a songwriter, his work appears on albums by Poncho Sanchez, Bobby Shew, Clare Fischer, Jerry Gonzales, and Stan Getz.
In 1963 Creed Taylor signed him with Verve, and Tjader worked with Klaus Ogermann and other producers to create some of the hippest albums of the 1960s. His single of "Soul Sauce" ("Guachi Guara") briefly entered the Top Forty charts.
Although Tjader was often slammed by jazz critics for pandering to popular tastes, he was well-respected among the Latin musicians with whom he worked, including Candido, Armando Peraza, Eddie Palmieri, and Tito Puente. In his later years, he came to be recognized as one of the fathers of acid jazz. His concord album "La Onda Va Bien" won a Grammy award in 1979.