Following on Black History Month and Women’s History Month in February and March, each April we celebrate national Jazz Appreciation Month with all of your favorite music on Jazz 93.5. In 2022, Jazz Appreciation Month is centered on the Latin jazz and the cross-pollination of Afro-Caribbean music and jazz. The rich history of this musical dialogue not only led to the development of specific Latin jazz styles and practices, but also inform mainstream jazz idioms, from bebop (Dizzy Gillespie) and hard bop (Grant Green) to jazz fusion (Return to Forever) and leading contemporary artists (Dafnis Prieto).
Though Latin jazz was first cemented as a unique genre in the 1940s, the influence of Latin music on jazz predates even the earliest jazz ensembles, going back to the nineteenth century when the habanara rhythm was gaining international popularity (think Bizet’s opera, Carmen). From Africa to Europe and the Caribbean, the habanera rhythm was assimilated into African American music via the port city of New Orleans where early jazz musicians adapted it, creating a rhythm called tresillo. Wynton Marsalis refers to tresillo as “the New Orleans ‘clave’,” but it was identified as early as 1910 by another distinguished New Orleans jazz artist, Jelly Roll Morton, who referred to it as “the Spanish tinge” (you can hear Morton discuss the development of “the Spanish tinge” in his famous Library of Congress interviews from 1938). The tresillo was featured in early blues and jazz works by Morton and W.C. Handy, who wrote it into his “St. Louis Blues” (1914), the most-recorded song of the first half of the twentieth century. Even at the inception of jazz music, Morton and others asserted that “the Spanish tinge” was an essential ingredient of jazz music.
In the 1940s, Cuban artists like trumpeter Mario Bauzá and Francisco Grillo (a.k.a. Machito) produced the world’s first distinct Latin jazz works, combining American jazz improvisation and instrumentation with Afro-Cuban musical styles. “Tangá,” the first Latin Jazz piece, was introduced in 1943 and became a common feature at New York jam sessions. Pioneering jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton eagerly collaborated with artists like Bauzá, Chano Pozo, and others to create other jazz standards like “Manteca” and “The Peanut Vendor.”
The contact between African American jazz musicians and Latin and Afro-Cuban musical styles is a recurrent theme throughout the history of jazz music, culminating in popular styles like salsa, songo, timba, and CuBop. As part of the tapestry of jazz music, you can hear top-flight Latin jazz every day on our station. In celebration of national Jazz Appreciation Month, join host Dan Adams for Latin Jazz Express Saturdays at 4:00 pm, or tune in Sundays at 4:00 for The Brazilian Hour only on Jazz 93.5.