Cal Tjader Day

July 16, 1925 – May 5, 1982

Soul Sauce

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Vibraphonist Cal Tjader was born on July 16, 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Tjader’s parents were a Swedish song-and-dance vaudeville duo who introduced Tjader to music and performance at a very young age.

He rose to prominence in the 1950s’ West Coast scene, best known for his recordings in the Afro-Cuban jazz style.

His parents settled in San Mateo, California where the young Tjader worked as a dancing child wonder and performed briefly with tap legend Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

Proficient on a number of instruments at sixteen he became a drummer of a Dixieland jazz band.

While attending San Francisco State College in the late ’40s Cal Tjader formed a short live Octet with pianist Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond, but they eventually achieved success as a trio after the group disbanded.

Cal taught himself to play vibraphone and went on to work with Alvino Rey and pianist George Sheering after Brubeck was injured in an automobile accident in 1951.

The Mambo craze of the 1950s facilitated the formation of the “Modern Mambo Quintet.”

A small group, prized for including real Cuban musicians, it was his favorite band although he also simultaneously released albums with other groups including his quartet for Fantasy Records.

After remaining with the label for over a decade Cal switched over to Verve, releasing his best received LP “Soul Sauce” in 1964.

His rendition of the title track, a Dizzy Gillespie cover, sold over 100,000 copies and popularized the term “Salsa” as a disruption for Latin dance music.

Cal Tjader is featured performing his biggest hit during a rare film appearance in 1974.


Cal Tjader – vibes
Clare Fischer – piano
Robb Fisher – bass
Poncho Sanchez – congas
Vince Lateano – drums


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