In this comprehensive examination of Latin jazz, John Storm Roberts, British-born, U.S.-based music journalist and author of Black Music of Two Worlds and The Latin Tinge, details the diversity and history of this often overlooked genre. Writing for the novice, Roberts outlines the presence of Afro-Hispanic rhythms and musical forms in African-American jazz: exploring turn-of-the-century New Orleans, where the Cuban Habanera and Argentinean tango rhythms were synthesized into the ragtime of Scott Joplin and the jazz of Jelly Roll Morton in the early 1920s; the creation of the mambo by bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez and the incorporation of the conga drum by Chano Pozo into Dizzy Gillespie's big band and bebop combos in the '30s and '40s; and the popularization of the samba by American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim with the 1960s hit, "The Girl from Ipanema."
In detailing the history of this Pan-American musical mélange, Roberts's definitions of key Latin jazz terms are to the point and free of music-critic jargon. For example, he describes the 3/2 or 2/3 rhythmic pattern known as the Cuban clave as "a simplification, under a Euro-Latin influence, of a common West African organizing concept that consists of a regular total number of sounds and silences, usually carried on a bell." Roberts also introduces the reader to the many Caribbean, Central, and South American musicians who have moved and grooved the U.S. for decades, including Puerto Rican pianists and percussionists Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, and Jerry Gonzalez; the Argentinean nuevo tango creator Astor Piazzolla; the Cubano conguero Mongo Santamaria, and the Swedish-American vibraphonist Cal Tjader. Throughout this well-researched volume, Roberts reveals how the artistic contributions of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking neighbors have enriched American music, and impresses upon us the fact that "the Latin tinge was one of the most crucial elements in the universality of jazz." --Eugene Holley Jr.