Knowing Latin Jazz – History and Influences

The influence of American Jazz in the evolution of Latin jazz is evidenced in the instrumental level of performance (like jazz band), the rhythmic elements (use of walking bass and swing eighth note), and some melodic elements (use of blue notes).

Although it turned out to be classified into an independent gender that shares punctual technical peculiarities. The bossa nova, as a subgenre of jazz, was nourished by its harmonic complexity in the use of complex chords.

So, although Jazz has a characteristic harmony, it’s nothing more than the fusion of harmonic elements product of African and European cultural fusion. This transformation was the product of the result of the mass projection of Jazz, and its international promotion since the 1920s, which would turn the genre into a symbol of twentieth-century modernity.

Latin Jazz: A New Proposal

Latin jazz was born in New York, which even in the 1940s was already a large and cosmopolitan city, known for its cultural diversity, and from the beginning it was considered the cradle of modern Jazz by many of its interpreters, the Latin migrations to this city and the resultant cultural mix would give origin to the genre that is known today as Latin Jazz.

The main precursor of Latin Jazz was the Cuban musician Mario Bauza, who arrived in the US in the year of 1920. By 1940, Bauza, who was a member of the Cuban Caribbean music orchestra of Frank “Grillo” Machito, began to improvise with other musicians in a presentation to keep the audience entertained, here is born a work that was called Tanga, the piece is currently considered a hymn of the genre.

From that improvisation between harmonic and rhythmic fusions of metals and percussion and the contributions of American trombonists and trumpeters, the new style was consolidated. In the Latin neighborhoods of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Harlem, or the Spanish Harlem and assumed the leading role in the birth and development of Latin Jazz.

This community creates diverse groups and Orchestras and many begin to project the genre, to become famous, among which it’s worth mentioning Los Hermanos Castro (of Cuban origin), the saxophonist Sydney Bechet and the Haïtian Orchestra (this band fuses Jazz with the Cuban Rumba and the Haitian merengue).

However, was in the 40s when the musician Mario Bauza added the Latin percussion and the Cuban key, perfecting the defining characteristic that gives its particular sound of the genre and from now on it would be the famous musician Charlie Parker who would consolidate the fusion of Jazz with the Latin genres.

Brazilian Latin Jazz and Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz

Latin jazz has notable differences with respect to traditional Jazz. For example, the first one replaces the drums with percussion instruments of Latin origin such as the conga, the timbal, the güiro, and the keys.

Cuba jazz
Cuba jazz

For its part, Brazilian Latin Jazz has traditional musical genres such as Samba and Bossa Nova, and Cuban Latin Jazz is based on traditional Cuban genres, such as merengue, songo, son, mambo, bolero. also the charanga and chachacha.

The Latin Jazz of Cuban origin is the most projected and disseminated by the Latino community in the United States. And from then on, a lot of musicians became part of the Latin jazz ranks in both styles.