Cal Tjader (1925-1982) was not exactly a cutting-edge innovator, but as a bandleader, composer, and vibist he did a great deal to bring jazz and Latin elements together long before "Fusion" entered the musical lexicon. Like Art Blakey and Chico Hamilton, his bands have served as "finishing schools" for talent going on to carve out their own niches: Candido, Eddie Palmieri, and Tito Puente, to name three titans of Latin jazz. Further, this Swedish-American was highly respected in the Latin music community -- in his own unassuming way, Tjader laid the groundwork for Santana, Pete Escovedo, Jerry Gonzalez, and more. He had a bright, sustained-ringing tone and a judicious way of deploying notes, and his bands always had a nice mixture of percussive groove and sunny, well-defined swing, with occasional light touches of R&B and rock. (Though to be sure, there's none of the latter on these discs -- check out CJ's Verve and Fantasy catalogs for the some of his funkier stuff.) The Best of the Concord Years is just that, a cross-section of the recordings Tjader made in the last years of his life. Presenting a mix of classic and newer standards ("Speak Low," "Naima," "Besame Mucho," Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing") and originals ("Mambo Mindoro") played by Tjader's core band (Roger Glenn, Mark Levine, Vince Lateano, Rob Fisher) and select "guest stars" (Scott Hamilton, Hank Jones, Carmen McRae), Best of.... is a nice primer to CJ's late-period artistry, where integrity and accessibility not only co-exist but thrive together.