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Tjader’s playing, however, was nothing like this. Although he was a drummer and percussionist by background, he seemed to draw on the instincts of a horn player in shaping his improvised lines. They did breathe.” [Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960, p.103].
Cal always maintained that his two main influences on vibes were Lionel Hampton and Milt [“Bags’] Jackson. “Hamp” was a banger and “Bags” was a bopper and a blues player without equal. How in the world did Cal fuse such dissimilar styles?
Ted Gioia also notes this divergence and takes this point a step further:
“These disparate strains in his playing came out most clearly in his Jazz work. Where Tjader melded them into a melodic, often introspective style that was very much his own. Even when playing more high-energy Latin numbers Tjader kept a low-key demeanor, building off the intensity of the rhythm section rather than trying to supplant it. For the most part, he came across as an introvert on an instrument meant for extroverts.” [Ibid, pp.103-104].