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Lesson 12: Latin Jazz

The Clave

The most important aspect of latin music is the clave. The clave is a two-bar rhythmic pattern that occurs in two forms:

forward clave, aka 3 - 2 clave:       

and reverse clave, aka 2 - 3 clave:

Down/ Up Versus Up/ Down

Many latin styles use a two-bar pattern. The two-bar pattern can be arranged in two ways. The guitar pattern below is down/ up ( downbeat/ upbeat), which means that in the first bar the one is emphasized, while in the second it is syncopated. If it is the other way around, the pattern is up/ down ( upbeat/ downbeat).

Brazilian Rhythm Music

Brazilian music has its own clave pattern:

The most well-known Brazilian styles are bossa nova and samba. A lot of bossa nova and samba can be faked using the following pattern:

When playing the bass notes you may want to alternate between the root and the fifth of the chord. When playing with a bassist you have the option of using mainly the higher degrees of the chords and omitting the bass notes. No matter which option you choose, the main thing is what you're able to do rhythmically.

The nylon-string acoustic guitar ( called violćo) is the single most important instrument in Brazil. Bossa nova/ samba comping on nylon-string acoustic guitar is an art form, a whole world in itself, and it has to be taken really seriously if you want to master it...

Recommended reading on the art of bossa nova/ samba comping:

  • The Brazilian Guitar Book by Nelson Faria
  • Brazil, Your Passport to a New World of Music by Billy Newman

Afro-Cuban Rhythm Music aka "Salsa"

In afro-cuban music two types of clave patterns are used - the african or rumba clave and the son clave:

Basically, "salsa" means mixture and salsa is the special flavor of afro-cuban jazz that was created in New York.

In afro-cuban jazz percussion plays a very important role. The are often several drummers and percussionists in a group playing afro-cuban jazz.

Recommended reading on afro-cuban rhythm music/ salsa:
The Salsa Guidebook by Rebeca Mauleon.

Examples - Listening

Listen to the following:

  • Buena Vista Social Club
  • Eliane Elias
  • Joćo Gilberto
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos

© 2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.