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Read below for an overview of Latin jazz, learn about and listen to some of the great Latin jazz musicians, explore the instruments of the Latin percussion section, and then take the quiz. Where did Latin and Afro-Cuban Jazz Come From? Latin jazz has its roots in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. When Africans were taken into slavery in the Americas, they brought many things with them, including their culture, their religions, their dances, and their food. They also brought special ways of playing music. The drums were at the center of the music, which was full of complicated rhythms that hadn’t yet been heard in the Americas. Over time, African music intermingled with the music of Spanish and native cultures in the Americas. This powerful blend created a unique body of music and dance. At its heart, Latin jazz is dance music. The prominent use of percussion, like the congas, timbales, and clave, gives the music a rhythmic vitality unlike any other form of jazz. Afro-Cuban jazz was created in New York City in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It reflected thriving African-American and Latino cultures in New York City. Cuban-born musicians like Mario Bauza, Machito (Frank Raúl Grillo), Chico O’Farrill, and Chano Pozo teamed up with American jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie. They combined Latin rhythms, bebop, and big band swing to create a unique, multicultural sound. In the 1950s, Latin jazz popularized dance styles like the mambo and rumba all over the United States. Like most styles of music, Latin jazz has grown and changed over the years. While its early sounds originated largely from Cuba and Puerto Rico, Latin jazz eventually expanded to include rhythms like the Dominican merengue, Brazilian samba, and Colombian cumbia. By combining musical traditions, Latin jazz celebrates our differences and helps us find common ground.
This took a lot of courage in the 1950s because people didn’t use the term Afro-anything. Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill and. A son of a cigar manufacturer.Artists Frank “Machito” Grillo “Machito was one of the great bandleaders of his time. briefly. Jr.” by Jayne Cortez. Chano Pozo . and bandleader Frank “Machito” Grillo was born in Havana. pianist and bandleader Jazz singer. In 1937. laying the foundation for Latin jazz in the United States. Chano Pozo “A very fine conga of sweat A very fine stomp of the right foot A very fine platform of sticks A very fine tube of frictional groans A very fine can of belligerent growls A very fine hoop of cubano yells Very fine very fine” First stanza of poem. 1982 Chano Pozo was born in Cuba in 1915 and became a successful musician. Pozo moved to New York City where his friend and fellow musician Mario Bauza convinced American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to hire him. In 1947 the two musicians wrote “Manteca. Together. a young Tito Puente. At one time or another. including Chano Pozo. The group’s mission was to combine Cuban dance music with jazz. they blended Latin rhythms with bebop. In 1946. He understood that it was important to emphasize the African roots of Latin jazz and called his band Machito and the Afro-Cubans. some of the most important Latin jazz musicians performed with or wrote music for Machito’s band. Pozo gained international fame playing the conga drums with Gillespie’s band. Machito was one of the first musicians to bring together Latin music and jazz. percussionist. he began working as a professional musician as a teenager.Arturo O’Farrill. Pozo also played with Machito and the Afro-Cubans. and composer in his home country.” which became a huge hit in Cuba and the United States and is now recognized as a jazz standard.” .. In 1948. Chico O’Farrill. “I See Chano Pozo. With his brother-in-law Mario Bauza. he emigrated to the United States. dancer. Machito formed the band Machito and the Afro-Cubans. Cuba in 1912. and saxophonist Charlie Parker.
was killed in a Harlem bar.” which became one of the band’s most popular songs. It was then. and wrote music for Dizzy Gillespie. It’s 2:00 in the morning and the dancers are just getting geared up. the “King of Latin Music. that his fate was sealed. he had been performing and recording music for over sixty years.” was born in 1923. His parents sent him to military school in Georgia at which time their plans for young Chico went awry. Jr. O’Farrill heard popular big band music on the radio. pianist and bandleader Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill was born in Havana. He became an arranger for famed big band leaders Count Basie and Benny Goodman. and arranger. he once said.Arturo O’Farrill. composer. By the time Puente died in 2000. Puente was born and raised in Harlem. Puente became famous leading his dance band at the Palladium.Arturo O’Farrill. Tito Puente “Imagine yourself at the Palladium. including the “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite.” . He built a strong reputation playing Latin dance music. Jr. He had his first piano lesson at age seven and started playing the drums and other percussion instruments by the age of ten. When Chico was in his teens. great showman who expressed all the joyous aspects of Latin music. As a student in the United States. After serving in the Navy as a young man. . and the rumba. Puente studied composition at The Juilliard School.. O’Farrill studied with Cuban composer Felix Guerrero and played in a dance band before moving to New York City in 1948.. Chico O’Farrill “Chico O’Farrill was the first Latin musician who not only understood Latin rhythms but was also a brilliant orchestrator. a popular New York nightclub that had become a haven for Latin music and its many fans. He was a great. Cuba in 1921 and had a long and active career as a composer. he was expected to follow his father into the family law firm. He fell in love with jazz and returned to Cuba with the dream of a career in music. his contribution to Latin jazz has endured.” . especially the timbales. Tito Puente comes on stage and plays a piece so full of fervor and hysteria that people just go crazy. including the mambo. Although his parents were Puerto Rican. He also composed for Machito and the Afro-Cubans. the cha-cha-cha. Audiences loved Puente’s highly energetic performances and his great talent on all percussion instruments. He got hold of a trumpet and joined the school dance band. Despite his untimely death. pianist and bandleader Tito Puente. In the 1950s.
Listen to how the clave rhythm is implied in the cowbell pattern. The bongo has a time-keeping role and usually plays a specific rhythmic pattern. That’s what happens in the Latin percussion section. They decorate and add that extra touch of sweetness. The maracas are the icing on the cake of the Latin rhythm section. It is a two-measure rhythmic pattern that is best described as the heartbeat of Latin music. Jr. playing on top of all of the other instruments. Listen to the circular rhythms of the guiro. Listen to the repetitive 3-2 pattern and try to clap along. and slap tones of the conga. It can let you know whether the clave is 2 -3 or 3 -2. but melodic.” . Listen to the high. The guiro. Listen to the maracas play a circular pattern that adds color and flavor to the total sound of the Latin percussion section." Listen to the pattern played on the shell. The basic role of the timbale is to play a pattern called the c ásca r a. The clave is the central feature of Afro-Cuban jazz.Percussion Instruments “The Latin rhythm section is integral to the performance of Latin jazz. Listen to the rapid syncopated patterns as the bongo player improvises.. Each instrument within the Latin rhythm section plays a very specific role. The term clave also refers to the wooden sticks that are used to play the clave pattern.Arturo O’Farrill. low. The translation of cascara is "shell. but played in the larger context of the rhythm section contributes to a larger picture that is very. like the maracas. It is a freer instrument than the conga and is used to be improvisational. or side of the drum. pianist and bandleader The congas were brought directly from Africa and the role that they play is not only percussive. It’s like a mosaic or a photograph. Its role has more to do with flavoring than the actual keeping of the clave pulse. a series of little tiny details that all come together to make a big picture. © 2003 Jazz at Lincoln Center . Each instrument played alone sounds very unique. The cowbell pattern is very closely related to the cascara pattern that is played on the side of the timbale. also known as the paila . very important to the music. is an instrument that adds color to the Latin rhythm section.
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