Read that Wikipedia article. What Bert Gambini says about CTI is something: "It's that temporal stamp that I interpret as an asset, not a liability." That's something I think I've been trying to get at, without achieving quite that conciseness. But that's it. I don't often cringe when I see something that's outré in its epitomization of a past era. I may laugh, but usually it's a sympathetic laugh, and if you can make me laugh you've mostly won me over already. In other words, maybe I believe that if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.
So anyway, I don't know CTI records yet, and though I lived through that era I was too young to be aware of its jazz, but I think I know what it sounds like, and it makes sense as a natural progression from what Taylor was producing at Verve in the '60s. Basically he was doing stuff that hit what he considered to be the sweet spot between jazz and pop. That is, music with the virtues of pop - accessibility, tunefulness, emotional directness - and the instrumental richness of jazz.
If today that sounds like a formula for elevator music, that's because two or more decades of smooth jazz have ruined the concept. (It may surprise you, if you've read all my Talkin' Verve reviews, to learn that I take a back seat to no one, except maybe Pat Metheny, in my hatred of Kenny G.) But I don't think the idea of a jazzy pop, or a pop-inflected jazz, is intrinsically a bad one. It certainly could never replace challenging, avant-garde jazz, but they could coexist.
Anyway, that's kind of what Verve was about from the beginning, and certainly during the '60s under Creed Taylor. And Cal Tjader, as exemplified on this disc, is a perfect example of just how pleasant a thing that could be.
So there's Latin underpinnings on basically everything here - bossas, afro-cubano, mambos. It's not hot'n'greasy like Willie Bobo's stuff, though; it's cool. Like a caipirinha. I guess that's inevitable, being as how Cal's instrument is the vibes, but it's not just the sound: Willie's all about the groove, and the instrumental lines tend to be almost tight enough to qualify for the Commitments' definition of soul vs. jazz. Cal's records are full of improvising: they're all about the solo, the instrumental interplay. This loosens them up, and if it lowers the temperature, it also deepens the groove. There's some seriously soulful stuff on here.
What, as they say, 's not to love?