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Jazz Forms - The Latin Influence

In 1947, BeBop innovator Dizzy Gillespe hired Cuban conga player Chano Pozo for a Town Hall Concert in New York City, and by way of Chano's mesmerizing performance raised the banner of latin jazz. Pozo's exposure as a youth to the West African music played in Havana nourished his roots in the Afro-Cuban sound, and brought attention to the Spanish-influenced music of Cuba, the West Indies and South America. While jazz and Afro-Cuban music share the same West African origins, the sounds are quite distinct. Latin music is produced by a rhythmic layering effect, where many relatively simple drum beats are joined in a thick patchwork of infectious interaction. A prominent characteristic of latin music is that it makes it difficult to sit still, revealing its primary purpose as dance music.

Examples of the latin dance styles appear in many guises and places. From the Spanish flamenco, Columbia evolved the jorupo, Mexico the jarabe, and Cuba the habanera and rhumba. The rhumba rhythms appeared from the earliest days of New Orleans jazz in the Creole "signifyin"' songs, to Cab Calloway's 1931 Doin' the Rhumba, and as regular fare at Harlem's El Toreador, where Cuban owner Frank Martini hired Noro Morales to move his dance crowd. W. C. Handy used the tango rhythm developed from the Cuban habanera in Memphis Blues in 1912, and again in St. Louis Blues in 1914, the year the tango became a Broadway dance craze. Desi Arnaz, an Xavier Cugat alumni, popularized a Cuban carnival dance called the conga in 1937, the mambo dance became a fad in the forties, and in 1946 Carmen Miranda highlighted the Brazillian samba.

Collaborations between jazz and latin musicians produced note-worthy results.  Duke Ellington joined with Puerto Rican trombonist Juan Tizol in 1932, and they created tunes such as Bakiff, Congo Bravo, and the classic Caravan. Cab Calloway's latin guide was trumpeter Mario Bauza who, like Chano Pozo, migrated from Cuba to New York City. Bauza also grew up with Afro-Cuban folk music, and acquired jazz through Phil Napoleon and Red Nichols recordings, so his integration of the two sounds into Cuban flavored jazz was a natural progression.

It was Bauza who persuaded Calloway in 1938 to hire Dizzy Gillespe, a jazz player immersed in latin rhythms. Gillespe's interest led to the Town Hall Concert with Chano Pozo, the success of which brought the attention of both Latin and jazz band leaders. Jazz orchestras which hired Cuban drummers afterwards included Stan Kenton's, Woody Herman's and Gene Krupa's, and the latin bands of Machito, Tito Puente, Miguelito Valdes and others began using jazz soloists in their arrangements. It was through this interaction that musicians educated each other about their fields of expertise. From this point forward latin jazz emerged as a regular part of the jazz canvas, and developments in one area soon affected many others, to the musical benefit of all.  [top]
- article by Frank Singer 2002




Jazz Origins
I - Beginnings 
II - Jazz and Technology
III - Radio and the Industrial Beat    
The Swing Era
I - Precursors
II - The Decade of Swing
III - The BeBop Strain
A First Look Back
New Orleans Revival

Jazz Forms

The Blues
The 32 bar Song Form
The Latin Influence
Hard Bop
Evolution 1 - A New Dialogue
Evolution 2 - Into The Seventies
Evolution Of The Jam Session
Post Modernism


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