Tribute to Cal Tjader
Directed by Michael Wolff with Warren Wolf, Pete Escovedo, John Santos, Robb Fisher, and Vince Lateano
Cal Tjader crafted one the sleekest and most distinctive sounds in Latin jazz. His cool, shimmering jazz vibes, gliding fluidly atop fiery, hot Afro-Cuban rhythms, made for a sonic signature that helped introduce the genre into a mainstream audience. This tribute to Tjader, which was put together to honor to the jazz great includes some of the few remaining players who had played with him: pianist Michael Wolff (Musical Director), percussionist Pete Escovedo, bassist Robb Fisher and drummer Vince Lateano, and includes one of the brightest new talents on vibes, Warren Wolf, and John Santos on percussion. The band will perform a combination of Cal’s Latin and jazz favorites, all arranged by Wolff.
Michael Wolff / piano, Musical Director
Michael Wolff is a genuine hipster--a Manhattan-based family man and internationally acclaimed pianist, composer, and bandleader. A baby boomer in his prime, Wolff is renowned for his old school jazz roots, melodically fresh and rhythmically compelling multi-keyboard style, and ever-expanding media presence. A New Orleans native whose father taught him blues on piano before he began classical lessons at age eight, Michael also grew up in Memphis and Berkeley, California, getting his first significant professional gig when he was 19 from Latin jazz vibist Cal Tjader. He made his recording debut with Cannonball Adderley’s band in 1975, and has worked extensively with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Christian McBride and others including his late friend Warren Zevon and singer Nancy Wilson, for whom he wrote orchestral arrangements and conducted more than 25 major symphony orchestras during world-wide tours. Wolff’s own band, Impure Thoughts, founded in 2000, is an infectious improvising ensemble, richly percussive thanks to Indian tabla player Badal Roy, drummer Mike Clark (Headhunters) and electric bassist John B. Williams. Wolff’s recent performances include an Impure Thoughts concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and a trip to the British Virgin Islands. As a leader, Michael Wolff had released 14 albums since 1993, including three on Wrong Records, 2006’s Love & Destruction, 2007’s jazz, JAZZ, jazz and 2009’s Joe’s Strut.
In 2007, at ceremonies in Los Angeles, Michael Wolff, along with sons Nat and Alex, each received the BMI Film and TV Award for their contributions to the music on The Naked Brothers Band TV Show. His TV and film credits include Dark Angel and The Tic Code (2000), a feature for actor-dancer Gregory Hines, that was semi-autobiographical in its depiction of the Tourette’s syndrome with which Wolff copes. His five-and-a-half year stint as musical director of the Arsenio Hall Show from 1989-1994 heightened his visibility and gave him the occasion to meet his wife, actress and writer/director Polly Draper. He is producer, and Draper writer-director, of the smash hit Nickelodeon cable TV series The Naked Brothers Band, starring their sons Nat, 12, and Alex, nine (Wolff appears regularly as the boys’ “hapless, accordion-playing dad”), and he produced his first music video for 2006's Love and Destruction’s plaintive “Underwater,” shooting on location in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
The New York Times praised Wolff as "A pianist and vocalist with a style both global and contemporary" and JazzTimes Magazine raved that Michael Wolff is "one of the most innovative and dynamic pianists of his generation." Michael says that “I’m not living in the past, musically – I still have some of that ‘60s mentality, wanting to change the world and the music. But I think I’ve bridged the divide between needing to be different or revolutionary and also wanting to express beauty, serenity. “I don’t have a single disposition, I’m a real mix. The only thing I’d like to be known as is someone who keeps being creative.
Pete Escovedo / percussion
Legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo is an artist who broke down the barriers between Smooth jazz, Salsa, Latin jazz and contemporary music. His name has been synonymous in the music industry for more than 50 years.
Born in Pittsburg, CA, July 13th, 1935, he began his musical journey while attending high school in Oakland, California. At the age of 16, he began playing the saxophone and then discovered percussion which became his love of rhythm and his dream of playing Latin Jazz music.
After performing with various bands, in 1960 Pete and his brothers, Coke and Phil Escovedo formed the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz band, performing around the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1970 Pete and Coke formed the band “Azteca” that toured the United States with Stevie Wonder and The Temptations. They recorded two albums on Columbia records which are now considered collector’s items, Azteca and Pyramid of the Moon. In 1972, Pete toured and performed with the Carlos Santana band and recorded three major albums, Moonflower, Oneness and Inner Secrets. In 1978, Pete and daughter Sheila E. recorded two albums on Fantasy records, Solo Two and Happy Together, which were produced by Billy Cobham.
Pete’s versatility as a percussionist has been featured in performances and recordings by a wide range of artists, such as Carlos Santana, Tito Puente, Herbie Hancock, Mongo Santamaria, Bobby McFerrin, Cal Tjader, Woody Herman, Stephen Stills, Billy Cobham, Anita Baker, George Duke, Boz Scaggs, Andy Narell, Al Jarreau, Ray Obiedo, Dionne Warwick, Marlena Shaw, Barry White, Angela Bofill, Arturo Sandoval, Poncho Sanchez, Chick Corea, Dave Valentine, Najee, Gerald Albright, Prince, and many more.
As a solo artist, Pete has recorded six acclaimed albums on Concord Records, including Yesterday’s Memories, Tomorrow’s Dreams--Live in Concert (1987); the Grammy-nominated Mister E (1988); Flying South (1996); E-Street (1997); E-Music (2000); and Pete Escovedo Live (2003). Pete has also received numerous awards, including the Jammie Jazz Musician of the Year (1983); the Bammie Latin Musician of the Year (1984); a 1989 Grammy nomination for Mister E; San Francisco State College’s Purple Globe Award; the Ronald Dellums Congressional Award; the National Recording Academy Governors Award from both the San Francisco and Chicago Chapters; the California Arts Council Award; and the ABC Television Profile of Excellence Award. Has also has appeared in the movies Jack (1996) and Chasing Papi (2003).
Pete has also founded several Bay Area nightclubs, including Escovedo's in Oakland; Mister E.'s in Berkeley; Mr. E.'s Spotlight on the Square in Alameda; and Pete Escovedo's Latin Jazz Club in San Jose. Pete Escovedo believes that there is healing through music and has donated his time to numerous charity events to help children around the world by teaching the importance of music. Today, Mr. Pete Escovedo leads one of the top Latin jazz orchestras in the country, performing his own unique sound and continues to deliver his music throughout the world.
Warren Wolf / vibraphone
It’s no exaggeration to state that the release of Warren Wolf, the eponymous debut album for Mack Avenue Records by Warren Wolf, will make it as apparent to jazz fans as it already is to jazz insiders that the 31-year-old vibraphonist is the next major voice on his instrument. Joined by a unit of authoritative swingers (bassist Christian McBride, pianist Peter Martin, drummer Greg Hutchinson, alto and soprano saxophonist Tim Green, and, on two tracks, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt), Wolf offers a ten-piece program that admirably represents his singular blend of efflorescent chops, muscular attack, lyric sensibility, harmonic acumen, encyclopedic knowledge of hardcore jazz vocabulary, tireless groove and downright musicality.
“I’m trying to bring forth what most cats did back in the day, coming out right at you swinging, nice and hard, not a lot of hard melodies or weird time signatures,” Wolf says. “I like to play really hard, fast and kind of flashy. I like to take it to a whole other level.”
“What he does on vibes is pretty incredible,” says McBride, Wolf’s employer since 2007 in the Inside Straight band and co-producer of this album. He used to introduce Wolf as “the Cyborg,” in affectionate tribute to his head-shaking—but never robotic—feats of instrumental derring-do. “You can’t hear Warren and not be highly impressed,” he says. “Give him some music to learn, he pretty much has it committed to memory in a matter of minutes. In a couple of days, he has it on the piano. Then suddenly, he’s internalizing every part of the music—the melody, the chord changes, the song’s overall personality.” You’re listening to him, thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s what I had in mind.’”
McBride first encountered Wolf in 2000 at Jazz Aspen, during the bassist’s first year as Artistic Director. “I wanted to play with Christian,” Wolf states. “So I decided to buy all his records and be ready to play whatever tune he called.” At the moment of truth, he played “Shade of the Cedar Tree” without sheet music. McBride picks up the narrative: “I was flattered, I was impressed, and I was shocked to hear somebody play the vibes with so much melodic content. Warren was in the back of my brain after that. I promised him, ‘One of these days, I will get a band and hire you. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but you will be there.’”
At the time, Wolf was attending Berklee College of Music, from which he graduated in 2001. Born and raised in Baltimore, where he currently resides, he’s less widely known to “civilians” than his bona fides would merit. Still, he’s anything but a newcomer on the scene. In addition to two self-released recordings and two dates for the Japanese market on which he tears through producer-selected repertoire with panache and an informed point of view, his CV includes gigs with such eminent veterans as McBride, Bobby Watson, Mulgrew Miller and Tim Warfield, and recent encounters with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the George Coleman-Joey DeFrancesco Quartet and a Music of the Modern Jazz Quartet project led by pianist Aaron Diehl, the 2011 American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship winner. He also leads a strong working unit with Green, pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Kris Funn and drummer John Lamkin.
The namesake son of a school-teacher who is an amateur percussionist and the grandson of James Wolf, a gigging jazz pianist around Baltimore since the ‘50s, Wolf has, as he puts it, “been going hard at music since the age of three.” “I had a very strict musical upbringing,” he told Downbeat Magazine last fall. “Until I left high school, I practiced five days a week, kind of like a regular job—30 minutes on drums, 30 minutes on the mallets (vibraphone/marimba) and then 30 minutes on piano. Over that course of time, not to sound conceited, I got very good on all three instruments. Vibes was the instrument I happened to get best at.”
John Santos / percussion
Four-time Grammy nominee, and U.S. Artists Fontanals Fellow, John Santos, is one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today. He is known for his innovative use of traditional forms and instruments in combination with contemporary music, and has earned much respect and recognition as an educator, composer, and record and event producer. He has performed, recorded and studied with acknowledged masters of the Afro-Latin and Jazz idioms such as Cachao, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Bebo Valdés, Lazaro Ros, Armando Peraza, Eddie Palmieri, Patato Valdés, Francisco Aguabella, Orestes Vilató, Rene López, Max Roach, Batacumbele, Steve Turre, John Faddis, Nestor Torres and Chocolate Armenteros. This experience has provided a solid foundation for Mr. Santos’ current ground breaking work in bringing together styles, rhythms, concepts and artists from different generations.
Born in San Francisco, California, November 1, 1955, he was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family, surrounded by music. The fertile musical environment of the San Francisco Bay Area shaped his career in a unique way. His studies of Afro-Latin music have included several trips to New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia. Mr. Santos is widely respected as one of the top writers, teachers and historians in the field and is a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution. He has conducted lectures, workshops and clinics in the Americas and Europe since 1973. He has contributed to the international magazines Percussive Notes, Modern Drummer, Modern Percussionist, and Latin Percussionist. The San Francisco Bay Area community in which he still lives and works has presented him with numerous awards and honors for artistic excellence and social dedication.
Mr. Santos is also a distinguished and creative multi-percussionist and recording artist. His diverse credits (in addition to those listed above) include: Bobby Hutcherson, Grupo Mezcla (Havana, Cuba); Lalo Schifrin, Irakere West, Santana, Yma Sumac, Linda Tillery, Cal Tjader, Danilo Perez, Ignacio Berroa, Omar Sosa, Jon Jang and Charlie Hunter. He was the director of the Orquesta Tipica Cienfuegos (1976-1980) and the award-winning Orquesta Batachanga (1981-1985). Mr. Santos founded and directed the GRAMMY-nominated Machete Ensemble from 1985 to 2006, a world-class Latin Jazz band of international renown. They recorded and released nine CDs during that time, mostly on Mr. Santos’ Machete Records label. His current performing group is an exciting Latin Jazz Sextet under his own name. John is an endorsee of Latin Percussion instruments, Remo drumheads, Sabian cymbals, Engelhart Metal Percussion, and Fat Conga Cajones.
Vince Lateano / drums
Renowned Bay Area drummer Vince Lateano began his professional career as a jazz drummer in the ninth grade. At the age of 18, Vince went on the road with pianist Carmen Cavallaro, and on his return to the Bay Area, Vince established himself in San Francisco playing with the likes of Eddie Duran and Vince Guaraldi. He has toured with the Woody Herman Band (a band that included Alan Broadbent and Sal Nistico) and eventually joined the Cal Tjader group with whom he played until Cal’s untimely death in 1982. Vince has appeared on six recordings with Cal including the Grammy Award winning La Onda Va Bien! and the Grammy nominated Gozame! Pero Ya. Other recording credits include albums with Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Tania Maria, Tom Harrell, Al Cohn, Clare Fischer, Mark Murphy, Eddie Duran, Bill Perkins, Carmen McRae, and Bruce Forman, among others. In addition, Vince has performed with numerous artists including Scott Hamilton, Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Charlie Byrd, Bill Berry, Benny Carter, John Handy, Chet Baker, Mundell Lowe, and Marlena Shaw. Vince has been the Traveling Drum Clinician for the Monterey Jazz Festival since the Education Program’s inception in 1984.
Robb Fisher / bass
Bassist Robb Fisher has been a sideman for a diverse number of artists since moving to the Bay Area in l967. Born in Los Angeles, California, on January 6, 1946, Robb was fortunate to be around jazz because his father was a bassist and arranger, who had an enormous record collection. (His dad later became the first person to ever receive a Master’s Degree in jazz at USC.) Robb studied clarinet and alto sax through junior high. In high school, a love of jazz and collecting LPs engulfed him. “I started to sneak into Shelly’s Manhole on Monday nights to listen to the Mike Melvoin trio. I was mesmerized by Leroy Vinnegar’s inspiring, walking bass,” Robb says. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Robb’s dad, who was a full-time professor of music and not playing much, let him have his bass so he could study classical bass with Al Pollan, a studio musician in Hollywood, for four years while attending the University of Redlands. During college, Robb formed a piano trio with John Prince.
In 1976, Robb joined Cal Tjader’s group, which included percussionist Poncho Sanchez. It was an association that lasted over six years and a key highlight in Robb’s career. “Cal was a mentor to all his sidemen,” say Robb, “and his lyrical ballads and love of Afro Cuban rhythms was impressive. Cal was a master of breathing. It was as if he could light up a cigarette while he soloed.” Robb toured and recorded many albums, including anchoring Cal’s Grammy Award- winning album, La Onda Va Bien and Grammy-nominated album, Gozame Pero Ya. During this period, Robb recorded with such jazz and Latin luminaries as Art Pepper, Carmen McCrae, Clare Fischer, Tania Maria and Anita O’Day.
For the past years, Robb has continued to play with a wide range of local Bay Area jazz musicians, including Akira Tana, Eddie Marshall, Peter Horvath, Vince Lateano, Mark Levine, Matt Clark, Brian Cooke, Susan Muscarella and Rob Schneiderman. In the ‘90s, Robb and guitarist George Cotsirilos formed a quintet that featured drummer Eddie Marshall. Two of Robb’s tunes can be heard on the Monarch recording entitled The Nighthawks featuring Eddie Marshall. He is currently playing with the highly respected Mel Martin’s group, Bebop and Beyond. Robb also teaches at the Jazz School in Berkeley and Bob Athayde’s Lafayette Summer Music Jazz Workshop.
Throughout the years Robb has worked extensively with Dick Whittington, and continues to perform regularly with the pianist at the Cypress Hotel in Carmel.