A Note on the Latin Origins of American Jazz

Daine Johnson in Arts and Opinion:

For jazz musicians, you’ve got to shred and swing — not to mention the necessity of having a complete command of harmony. For Latin jazz musicians, add another dimension to the mix: La clave — the signature pulse that has found its way into many forms of American music. The rhythmic feeling is so integral to Latin music that playing out of clave will drive dancers off the dance floor. (This beat is most easily described as, “Shave and a haircut: two bits.”) Better still, think of Bo Diddley’s trademark rhythm in his tune “Who Do You Love.” . .

Without Latin music, American music would be unrecognizable. From the outset, as if by divine orchestration, music from the Spanish Caribbean was not only welcomed in America, it made an indelible stamp on American music, especially jazz and later rock. Jelly Roll Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz, referred to this impact as the “Latin tinge.”