It’s rather ironic, and quite surreal too, that one of the principal architects in the popularisation of Latin Jazz should be a bespectacled vibraphone player of Swedish extraction hailing from America’s mid-west. But thus was Callen Radcliffe Tjader Jr, a tap-dancing child prodigy born in 1926 to a vaudeville family in St. Louis, Missouri. Young Cal took up the drums as a teenager and by the late-1940s – after he had moved to San Francisco and learned to play the vibes – was playing in the Dave Brubeck Trio. After a stint with George Shearing’s quintet in the early ’50s, Tjader went out on his own, signing to the Weiss brothers’ Fantasy label. Enamoured of Latin American music – and in particular Afro-Cuban music – Tjader quickly established himself as a musical pioneer by blending cool bop-influenced jazz with sizzling Latin sounds. Although Tjader died suddenly of a heart attack back in 1982 aged 56, he’s not been forgotten and the many records he made exerted a profound influence on the Acid Jazz movement in the 1990s. This splendid new compilation focuses on the vibraphone maestro’s appearances at the Monterey Jazz Festival, a key jazz event in California since the 1950s. The CD kicks off with Tjader’s complete late-night set from the 1958 festival – the sound quality is utterly fantastic, but what’s really interesting is the addition of clarinettist, Buddy De Franco, who adds an extra dimension to Tjader’s usual quintet (which at that time included percussion giants Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria). The performance includes a fabulous extended version of George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ and a retooling – Latin style, of course – of Charlie Parker’s ‘Now’s The Time.’ Culled from Tjader’s 1972 performance at the festival is a blistering version of Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Manteca,’ featuring guest cameos from Dizzy himself and trumpeter Clark Terry. Further tracks on this compilation are drawn from Cal’s Monterey appearances in 1974, 1977 and 1980. Excellent liner notes – featuring interviews with some of Tjader’s sidemen – add extra appeal to this commendable collection, which underlines the creative brilliance of one of jazz’s most influential yet underrated vibraphone players.