Tamba 4's California Soul : A Demo-Worthy Analog Recording You May Have Missed

Late week our Publisher, Jerry Del Colliano, wrote an article on a somewhat controversial topic... but it was one that was not without merit: "What Is The Most Cliché Audiophile Album of All Time?"

AR-Tamba4Cover450.jpgEspecially when it comes to recordings that were made in the early days of digital -- or simply recordings which feature heartless performances, albeit "good" sounding though they may technically be --  there are many overused recordings from the past used for demoing audio, music which may not have the broadest appeal in yee olde 21st Century tymes.  

Think about it:  how many well-off Millennials would be compelled to plunk down the dollars for a big system when it is being showcased playing "Dad Rock" or -- worse still -- what they consider "Yacht Rock."  Sure, some of that stuff is popular with some of the younger generations but not for the reasons many of you and (in some instances) I might like them.  

For example: many of us still love Steely Dan's Aja for its still mind numbing musicality: the brilliant playing, the innovative compositions, the stunning sonics, etc.  Yet, many younger folks consider it a bit of fun kitsch, part of the afore-mentioned "Yacht Rock" movement, smooth tunes to be played alongside Jimmy Buffet, The Eagles, Toto, James Taylor and a host of others. Music to support all manner of Boomer-era indulgences (click here to go to Urban Dictionary's hilarious definitions, be sure to scroll down there for the second one). 

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Point is: you can probably find some hepper things to spin to entice a broader base of listeners.  Personally, I would play them tracks by Fleet Foxes (which I acknowledge some of you don't consider hep but that is another thing entirely; I think they are wonderful as did the near sold out crowd at Berkeley's Greek Theater a couple years ago)...  Or perhaps they'd groove on Seu Jorge and Almaz (a record I first heard demo'd at Music Hall's suite a number of years ago at CES). Beck's Morning Phase and Grizzly Bear's first (Veckatimest) probably would go over better than Yes' "Roundabout" (and I say this as a huge Yes fanatic).  

I would also play them Resonance Records' live 1976 archival Stan Getz / Joao Gilberto release from The Keystone in Berkeley because it is such a stunning hushed document (click here for my review of that).

To that, do understand that many of the cool kids into record collecting and DJ culture are more likely to be spinning obscure jazz and soul from the 50s, 60s and 70s than Pink Floyd or Dire Straits. When it comes to Bossa Nova Jazz, most Boomer-era folks fall back on Stan Getz' 1964 classic with Joao Gilberto (Getz/Gilberto) for showcasing that genre. 

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If you are a bit more hipster these days you'll have recordings by Cal Tjader in your collection and some others.  I have turned a number of people on to Vince Guaraldi's music (which some still only know from the Peanuts TV specials). 

Several years ago I picked up a curious record at a garage sale by a Brazilian group named Tamba4 which put out two albums on A&M Records in 1967 (We And The Sea) and 1968 (Samba Blim). These records were early imprints of producer Creed Taylor's CTI label (then a subsidiary of A&M) and are lovely examples of the form. It turns out they were an important part of that Bossa Nova Jazz-Pop hybrid movement in the 1960s and were an outgrowth of the influential Tamba Trio.  It also turned out that a lot of my taste-maker music friends on Facebook were very much into the group.  

Released for Black Friday / Record Store Day late in 2019, producer Zev Feldman (Resonance Records, Blue Note Records) and acclaimed Brazilian music specialist DJ Greg Caz (both of whom I first crossed paths with on Facebook) put their heads together and pulled from the archives a long lost third album by Tamba 4! 

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It is a gem. Recorded in 1969 by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder, the album -- California Soul -- immediately became highly sought after on Record Store Day and is already selling for upwards of $50 on collectors sites like Discogs.  

The 180-gram vinyl is dark, quiet and well centered, mastered by Keven Gray of Cohearent Audio in a limited edition of 1500 copies. This new record was was cut straight from the original analog master tapes (a detail confirmed by co-producer Caz) so it has that sweet 1960s analog warmth thing going on.  

California Soul is a lovely recording including tight Bossa Jazz flavored interpretations of hits of the day including those written by Ashford & Simpson, The Doors and The Beatles, among others. 

The fidelity on this disc is quite rich, with nice highs and midranges to complement those fat Brazilian-flavored soul-jazz grooves. The music here is wonderful, upbeat, smooth and shiny (in a good way). There are crisp natural sounding cymbals and rich multi-part harmonies at times, all set to soulful swingin' sassy Bossa Jazz-Rock grooves. In many ways California Soul is an ideal demo disc! 

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It also looks great, reproducing the look and feel of those early Tamba 4 releases (and the whole A&M era of CTI recordings). The producers were able to unearth an unused photo from the original photographer who did the original Tamba 4 albums. They even recreated the 1960s/early 70s style brown A&M Records label! This lovingly assembled package feels like the genuine article, what the album might have sounded and looked like had it been released in 1969, perhaps the only thing missing from the form is a gatefold sleeve (but you do get liner notes on an album-sized insert sheet).

Since this was a much sought after Record Store Day item, you may have to poke around your favorite independent -- brick and mortar, physical, terrestrial -- music store to find a copy.  You can find California Soul up on Discogs as well (I haven't found any on Amazon yet but the other Tamba 4 albums are up there in a variety of formats).  You can hear the first two Tamba 4 albums streaming in CD quality on some of the high resolution services.  To jump to We And The Sea, click here for Tidal and here for Qobuz. For Samba Blim, click here for Tidal (alas it is not on Qobuz at present). Both sound good in basic 16-bit, 44.1 kHz CD quality. 

Solid stuff here folks to kick off your New Year's listening and system demo sessions.  Enjoy!

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