Latin jazz is a combination of African and indigenous influences that developed from the Latin American pilgrimage to the U.S during the early and middle portions of the 20th century. The origin of much of Latin jazz is linked to the Afro-Cuban slave population and the subsequent Diaspora. It is important to remember that musical and dance culture in Cuba isessential to national character and pride. This tradition of musical expression thrives to this day in Cuba, and lives in the U.S. throughout major cities following the migration of large segments of population.
There are a variety of influences that together form the foundation for Latin jazz, and its evolution into samba. For many centuries across the African continent, African peopleincorporated drums and percussion into their daily lives and into worship. Rhythms employed by Latin jazz musicians to this day have their origin in the worship of deities. Slaves that passed into European ownership handed down this tradition, and societies continue to cultivate the memory of these percussion influences. The European influence on jazz derives from Spanish guitar and flamenco, big bandmusic, and the various counts and rhythms that provide structure in jazz composition.
Latin jazz is played in both small and large combinations of musicians, with smaller groups or duos often playing improvised solos off of standard rhythms contrapuntally. Larger Latin jazz bands frequently use percussion solos or rhythms. Congas and bongos are most frequently used, and are played mostoften with the palm of the hand. Modern Latin jazz is also widely influenced by other instruments, such as brass and string instruments. It is believed by many that this is a product of the removal of percussion instruments by Europeans fearful of rebellion. Afro-Cuban music is steeped in the mastery of instruments in these categories, as slaves found alternatives to the healthy expression ofrhythm. From this backdrop came the modern sounds of Creole, Delta and Latin jazz.
Delta and New Orleans jazz is considered by many to be a close relative of Latin jazz. This is a product of the close proximity between New Orleans and Cuba, which contributed to a cross-fertilization of each style of music, as new artists and traditions easily fit into the framework flourishing in the other style.The two styles have many similarities, including the pattern of percussive rhythms, active improvisational solos, and a call-and-response rhythm that is energetic and incorporates the participation of audiences. The Cuban tradition terms this pattern “descarga”, and it is evident in the modern Cuban and samba style (Moore, 2006).
Eventually, the Latin and delta styles of jazz found a homein New York City, where many Latino and Cuban musicians found a wealth of cultural influences and large audiences. These artists assimilated into Big Band productions and added their own percussive spice, eventually cultivating the musical movement known around the world as Mambo. Mambo was created in the New York streets and in the dimly lit stages of Manhattan and Harlem. Along with Cubop,Mambo drew the top musical talents during the 1950s. It even drew the attention of many American artists, such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham and Fats Domino. Mambo was introduced to most of America as a dance fad but grew rapidly into an enduring musical tradition and the musical destination for much of the top Latino artists during the ‘50s.
Tito Puente is considered by mostto be the king of Mambo, having done more to perpetuate its popularity and development than any other artist or group. Puente was at his most popular during the 1950s, when mambo and later salsa became pervasive in the Latin jazz community. He was at the forefront of popularizing Afro-Cuban rhythms, such as mambo, cha cha and son (Loza, 1984). He is also popular among Latin jazz purists for...