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Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist: The Latin Spice in Jazz

Latin music is great dance music and always suggests a lively party

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Sunil Sampat Sep 15, 2020

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Songs like “Sway,” “Besame Mucho,” “Cherry Pink” and “Quando, Quando, Quando” are eternally popular tunes from the beats of the cha cha cha, samba and other Latin dance rhythms. Bands like those led by Perez Prado and Xavier Cugat made these tunes very popular.

Jazz musicians also find Latin rhythms fascinating and have always introduced these into their playing and their compositions.

Of all the external influences in American jazz, the introduction of Latin sounds with their lilt, percussion and exciting rhythms is probably the most enriching input into the jazz mainstream.

Among the earliest examples of Latin influence on mainstream jazz was when Duke Ellington composed the famous tune “Caravan” in conjunction with Mexican musician Juan Tizol. Gillespie combined with Cuban percussionist Chang Pozo and has embellished jazz with such great compositions as “Manteca,” “Con Alma,” “Tin Tin Deo” and “A Night in Tunisia,” among many more.

A much gentler Latin input came with Stan Getz introducing the exciting bossa nova to jazz in the early 1960s. There is a rich collection of Latin sounds in the library of jazz. Here is a selection that is guaranteed to cheer us during this time of the depressing pandemic.

“Wave” – Gal Costa

This is a very popular bossa nova composition sung here by the fabulous Brazilian vocalist, Gal Costa.

“The Girl from Ipanema” – Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto 

It was this recording that first made jazz listeners sit up and take notice of the new rhythm from Brazil. Saxophonist Stan Getz was the pioneer in bringing together this mesmerizing rhythm, the bossa nova and mainstream jazz.

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“Morning of The Carnival” – Gerry Mulligan 

From the film Black Orpheus, this song has found its way into jazz as a standard. Here, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan combines with a stellar line up of Art Farmer on trumpet, Jim Hall on guitar and others to capture the soul of this masterpiece.

“Manteca” – Dizzy Gillespie

This is arguably the song that first introduced the Latin sound into jazz. The composition, from the 1940s is by Gillespie and his Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo. The sound of “Manteca” is still very exciting, decades after it first surfaced. This recording, from the late 1980s features the composer and master trumpet player Gillespie and his protege Jon Faddis, also on trumpet, backed by an all-star big band.

“A Night In Tunisia” – Dizzy Gillespie

Latin jazz and Gillespie are never too far from each other! This composition is also written by Dizzy and played here from a 1981 recording. It is part Latin, part straight jazz and all Dizzy!

“Cantaloupe Island” – Herbie Hancock 

One of the very early examples of pianist Herbie Hancock’s composing skills. He has the company of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet in this recording. It has a lazy, laid back feel of a beach scene but with skillful solo renditions.

“No More Blues” – Carmen Mcrae

Carmen McRae, one of the best ever jazz vocalists is bringing to us a jazz version of Jobim’s famous composition “Chega de Saudade” (“No More Blues”) in her husky voice and inimitable style.

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“Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White” – Perez Prado

Nostalgia time! Many will remember this very popular tune from the 1950s. It is a cha cha cha – which is Cuban in origin and played here by a famous band from Cuba led by Perez Prado. Such a happy, carefree sound.

“Jive Samba” – Cannonball Adderley Quintet

Saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley combines not only the Latin sound with jazz but also brings in the blues for good measure. Here, in the company of Yusef Lateef on flute and saxophone, Nat Adderley on trumpet and tune composer Joe Zawinul on piano, the band cooks up a delicious concoction of sound.

“Desafinado” – Eliane Elias

A brilliant and famous composition by Jobim is rendered equally brilliantly by Brazilian pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias and her band. It is worth listening to this piece right to the end for the recurring highs in this performance. The brilliance of jazz meets the elegance of the bossa nova.

“Change Partners” – Frank Sinatra with Antonio Carlos Jobim

Nobody can quite compete with Francis Albert Sinatra for rendering a song; nor can many measure up to Antonio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim for his compositions of the bossa nova from his native Brazil. Here, these two giants combine, with Jobim on guitar to bring you this Irving Berlin composition. It is sweet enough to serve as a dessert for this playlist!

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