This letter is regarding Harvey Pekar's Jan. 12, 2001, article "Cubana Be Cubana Bop
" [Music], which is posted on your website. Mr. Pekar's piece is very interesting; I'm glad to see that he includes Stan Kenton in his history of Cuban-influenced jazz, as he is often overlooked in this area. However, I spotted a few factual errors regarding George Shearing.
George Shearing did indeed hire Cal Tjader on Jan. 16, 1953, but the other musicians named by Pekar were not part of his band at that time. It was Shearing, piano; Tjader, vibes, bongos, and timbales; Jean "Toots" Thielemans on guitar and harmonica; Al McKibbon, bass; and Bill Clark, drums. Some months later, Shearing hired Cuban conguero
Cándido Camero. Armando Peraza, who was Shearing's conguero for the next 10 years, did not join the band until early in March 1954, and Tjader left about a month after that. Willie Bobo did play on the LP The Shearing Spell
in 1955, but Mongo Santamaria was never in any of Shearing's bands. Shearing's first recording with a Cuban accent was the self-penned tune "Drum Trouble"; it was made on March 13, 1953, and featured Tjader on bongos. Camero was featured on tunes such as "Tempo de Cencerro," taped on Sept. 2, 1953. These are the earliest examples of Cuban-influenced records by George Shearing, and Tjader was primarily responsible for making it happen.
I have been writing a biography on Cal Tjader for seven years (McFarland) and have an article on Cal Tjader in the current issue of the magazine Wax Poetics