Latin Jazz - What's in a Name?</head>

Latin Jazz - What's in a Name?

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz defines Latin jazz simply as "jazz in which elements of Latin American music, chiefly its dance rhythms, are particularly prominent." But is that definition sufficient to represent the music created by the entire diaspora of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking people? What sub-categories make sense: Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Cuban, pan-Caribbean, Brazilian, South American? Or does the sobriquet Latin jazz fit it all?

The annual Jazz Journalists Association Awards currently recognize outstanding contributions in Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian jazz. Are these categories sufficient, or should we change?

Join the debate, led by a panel of respected musicians and scholars, as the Jazz Journalists Association convenes its second online forum for 2003.

Date: Monday, February 24
Time: 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern

Included on the panel are:

Q. from James Hale [Feb 24 - 04:31 pm]
Let's start with the central question... the one that prompted this forum.

What categories make sense when considering music from the Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking diaspora?

For the purposes of the JJA Awards, we've been using the categories "Afro-Caribbean" and "Brazilian". Fair? Unfair?

How do we avoid a Grammy "situation" ... explosion of categories with resultant erosion of exposure/importance?

  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 07:06 pm]
   I’d like to start off by extending a greeting to all my fellow panelists. I know that this is something near and dear to you, as it is for me.

I, as many other musicians, producers, educators, writers, and industry insiders, believe that Jazz is Jazz, and Latin/Brazilian music is Latin/Brazilian music. I believe that if one were to define Jazz, and break it down musically, then do the same with Latin/Brazilian music, what you’d have is either Jazz, or Latin/Brazilian music. I believe, as do many others involved in this art form, that such categorization has led to a discriminatory practice that in the long run has hurt many of those musicians that have dedicated their lives to this art form we call Jazz.

How so, you may ask? Well, one way in which the artist gets discriminated against would be through the booking process. Here in NYC for instance, a club like the Blue Note puts aside a couple of weeks of the year for “Latin Jazz”, while the rest of the year is reserved for “Jazz” artists. Radio programmers are also know to disregard those promotional packets that come labeled “Latin Jazz”. Very few radio programmers feature the artists, or their music. There are those that merit recognition such as Bob Parlocha and Awilda Rivera, but for the most part the music of those artists that are labeled as “Latin Jazz” artists goes unnoticed.

With that said, if there needs to be a category established so that the music does not go unrecognized then the category, “Afro-Caribbean”, should be changed to “Latin Jazz” since nowadays there are many different variants (Bomba, Flamenco, Tango, Joropo), some which have nothing to do with “Afro” or “Caribbean”. Brazilian music should also have a category of it's own due to the rich variety of rhythms that are distinctly Brazilian.

  A. from Mark Holston in Kalispell, Montana [Feb 24 - 07:39 pm]
   Greetings from the Great Northwest. It's about 10 degrees above zero, so this topic will heat things up.

Like George, I want to say hello to everyone and express my appreciation to James for the opportunity to participate.

My main issue as a journalist -- and a musician as well -- in dealing with the "is Brazilian Latin" debate is to keep them separate. I think it's two distinctly different worlds, and within each of those large universes are many different styles.

I'm still fairly comfortable with the term "Latin Jazz" or, as Eddie Palmieri prefers it "Afro-Caribbean," but I understand George's comments regarding promotion (and, did anyone notice, Latin Jazz was the last category to be mentioned in wire accounts of the Grammy Awards). To me, the largest part of this movement is still rooted in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Rican forms. The Flamenco, tango and the rest of it is something else -- as the Grammy Awards do, these are apart (in my mind at least). I grew up listening to Tito and Mongo and Ray and Cal, so that has colored my perception of what "Latin jazz" is.

Brazilians do not want to be considered part of this category -- at least the ones I've interviewed over the years. I have many points I can make along this line, as I've been traveling in Brazil since 1970 and have been there four times in the last year. I probably have the world's largest collection of Brazilian recordings. From a musician's perspective, the the two "families" of music, Brazilian and Latin, are very different, from rhythms to instrumentation. And, Brazilians - most of them -- think it's crazy when journalists call them "Latin jazz" or "Latin" artists. From their perspective, it's not so.

As with the Brazilians, I've always looked at the relationship between Spanish and Portuguese people as like cousins, not brothers and sisters.

Well, that's a beginning. I look forward to this.

  A. from Alan Stanbridge in Toronto [Feb 24 - 08:13 pm]
   Hi everybody! (Shades of The Simpsons...) We're off to a good start, given that the issue of categorization seems central to the debate. The unfortunate thing about genres and sub-genres is that there's a rather thin line between, on the one hand, the question of accurate description, and, on the other, the threat of marginalization or ghettoization. Which begs two questions: how essential/important is accurate description?; and how debilitating is marginalization? Any thoughts...?
  A. from Chris Washburne in New York [Feb 24 - 08:27 pm]
   Hello Everyone! IIt is great to be part of this forum with so many friends and allies in the Latin jazz trenches.

Dizzy Gillespie said " there is only good music and bad music." Charlie Parker "There is no boundary line to art." Ellington "Soon it will all just be music." Amen

That is what I, as a musician, say to categorization. It divides. It conquers. And it does not reflect what musicians do and how they think. Especially ones that play what is known as jazz or jazz - influenced music. Jazz is an open system that borrows from many different styles to make it what it is. Some of you have read my articles on the early influence of Caribbean styles on early jazz styles. If you accept my arguments, then by the definition posted on the home page of this site, all jazz is Latin jazz.

That said, as an academic I acknowledge that marketing strategies, economic pressures etc, must be seriously considered when discussing the music, and this is where the truisms stated above fail to address those complexities. Because Dizzy also, aware of marketing strategies, coined the term Cubop which greatly assisted the business of Latin jazz. There was then a term that could be exploited and used for expressly economic purposes. What we must do as researchers/musicians/ producers is grapple with a balance between what the music is and what can bring the most benefit. There is not an easy solution. 

  A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 08:36 pm]
   Hi everyone. I'm happy to be part of this forum.

A lot of people through the years have disliked the term Latin Jazz, including Mario Bauza and Ray Barretto. I think Latin Jazz is fine as a general term but Afro-Cuban Jazz works best when one is describing the mixture of jazz improvisation with Cuban and African rhythms. I think this term can also be used for jazz from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in general because of the similarities even though there are differences. If it's from Brazil and uses Brazilian rhythms, the term Brazilian Jazz seems to fit best. Of course it gets confusing when different styles overlap, but that's a difficulty that exists in all styles of jazz. What if it is 30% this and 70% that?

On the other hand, I don't know what Afro-Caribbean jazz is unless that's just another way of saying Afro-Cuban. And Salsa to me is the pop equivalent of Afro-Cuban jazz. But naturally all of this can get rather confusing!

  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 08:37 pm]
   I agree with Chris -- only good and bad, and that creating stylistic barrios creates certain problems.

But who decides what's good and what's bad? And, with the bewildering amount of recorded music, the consumer needs some road signs to work their way through the maze. I think out work as journalists needs to go far beyond just slapping a label on something -- we need to give the consumer cultural context (presuming they haven't heard what we're writing about). And, there's nothing wrong with educating people a bit. Why shouldn't they know that an Afr-Cuban rhythm section usually has timbales, bongos, congas, guiro, claves and maracas? Or, in Brazilian music, what role a tamborim plays? Or a cuica, or a-go-go bells.

I do clinics for school kids and lay out on the floor the "families" of traditional Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments. They are different and represent different African cultures. It's deep. Compare an a-go-go to a cow bell (cencero). Their may be similar functions, but the instruments are different. That tells us something about the music and how it has evolved.

  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 08:54 pm]
   Greetings to my fellow panelists. I would like to take a moment to iteratire what an honour it is to be part of such a distinguished panel. Most of you will not know who I am, so a quick overview before I toss my 2 cents on the table. My name is Nick "The Brownman" Ali and I am a Trinidadian, New York trained, Toronto based jazz trumpet player who for the last 10 years of my life (I'm a mere 27 years old) have focused heavily on latin-jazz in both composition and performance. I am Canada's 2002 National Jazz Composer of the Year, the leader of Nick Ali & CRUZAO (my chordless latin-jazz-funk unit) and the winner of the coveted 2001 Montreal Jazz Festival's "Grand Prix du Jazz" award (and I'm moved to say the first latin-jazz artist in the history of this prestigious jazz award to win in fact). I have studied privately in NYC with Randy Brecker for years in the early 90's and have spent much time in South America in the study of their rhythms and culture (particularly Cuba and Venezuela) and an now honoured to be one of the top called trumpet players in the latin community. Enough about me...

The issue here today as I see it - subcatagorization of the term latin-jazz for the purposes of JJA's award presentation and a discussion about diaspora and how it pertains to the musical and particularly the latin community. Having read the posts so far, I have to say my feelings are echoed strongly by Bobby Ramirez. I too share the belief that a further subcategorization of the existing categories would "tend to promote confusion rather than being an integral part of this Jazz fusion" as aptly put by Bobby. However the other side of this coin is what has happened in the Jazz world - the influences of other musical forms, as they seep into the form we've known as "jazz" starts to redefine it and reshape it, seeming to require additional categorization - such as "smooth jazz", "jazz-rock-fusion", "latin-jazz", "acid-jazz", "jazz-funk"... I feel these categorizations are only useful when speaking of MARKETING a project. ie - trying to explain a musical stance as an artist to a festival... or a journalist... but to begin to use these terms as heading for recognition of a broader scope I think is a mistake. An infinite amount of sub-catagorization could result until you're giving out awards for "best pseudo latin funk influenced Atlantic Coast Colombian rhythm driven harmonically advanced group of the year"... not to be confused with "best pseudo latin HIP-HOP Atlantic Coast Colombian rhythm driven harmonically advanced group of the year". You dig? I, like George, feel that the umbrella of Latin-Jazz is fine. At least in TODAY's current state of latin-jazz. I want to take a minute to acknowledge the temporal nature of these terms also - ie - that as time passes and a category "grows" into it's own entity (the way latin-jazz has grown beyond the contrants of merely being able to call it "jazz"), sub-categories will naturally form. It is the very temporal nature that we forget. We don't need to FORCE the categories on the music... the music will, through time, grow and demand it's own. If we sub-categorization occurs too soon, it can lead to my above silly example (which - given enough TIME - might be a completely legitimate sub-cateogory of some future's modern musical art).

In conclusion, for now - for TODAY - I, like George feel that the heading Latin-Jazz will suffice and as soon as you start subcategorizing into Afro-Cuban and Brazilian, you open the door for other subcategorizations that I feel are needless at this stage of the art's development.

- Brownman (Latinos all call me "Marróncito", so please feel free).

  A. from Chris Washburne in New York [Feb 24 - 08:55 pm]
   "You have to tell it the long way. You have tell about the people who make it, what they have inside them, what they're doing, what they're waiting for. Then you begin to understand." Sidney Bechet (1960:209)

Sorry to keep quoting, but these masters just say it better than I can. Mark you raise an important point. That of education. As Bechet says, we need to tell the whole story, or at least as much as possible. I wish there were more writers like you who feel that one of their roles is to educate. In this venture, labels can be helpful if they are presented in a nuanced way that exposes their inherent reductive stances. I believe that musicians also have an obligation to educate and get the music especially to the younger generations. With a more informed audience, the whole notion of having to label something to sell it becomes inconsequential.

  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 09:05 pm]
   I'll jump in again (and I type too quickly, so I hope James or some editor cleans up my typos before this goes any further!).

I agree with the points about the confusion caused from too many catagories. However, to include Brazilian music, unless they are playing an Afro-Cuban groove, "Latin jazz" artists is just way too broad, and the Brazilians themselves reject it.

When DownBeat did the cover piece on Claudia Acuna (Chilean) and Luciana Souza (Brazilian), it called them "Latin jazz" singers. The joke is, both want to distance themselves from their culture a bit and be taken seriously just as "jazz singers." But when I asked Luciana about how she felt being called "Latin," she said something like, "No, of course I'm not, I'm Brazilian, and I know what I am (but it was generally good publicity, so live with it)."

When Jobim was given the first Latin Jazz Grammy, people in Brazil thought it was a joke, but were happy he received the recognition. Even on my last trip, when I bought a shirt in a Rio store, the clerk commented that, "Oh, that color and style has become popular here since the Latino thing (read Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez) started happening and came down here."

The point is: Brazilians do not see themselves as "Latin" artists, so as a journalist, I don't want to put them in that box. Poncho Sanchez, sure. Eddie, naturally. Lots of people. But not Eliane Elias, Luciana Souza and Ivan Lins (and all the others). So, I beg for a Brazilian -- as large as that is -- catagory.

  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:12 pm]
   Hey Mark, Is that to say then that you would have equally strong views on Cuban folkloric music that isn't latin-jazz? Analogous to your Brazilian examples are the Cuban folkloric forms that too can't be categorized by the term Latin-jazz. What of them? Another category? This is where the problem lies I feel. I'm not saying we shouldn't, but the question becomes - where's the line?
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:12 pm]
   And I happen to concur with Mark. The language, rhythmic structure, and instrumentation differs from the standard "Latin" configuration. If there must be sub-categorization then Brazilian music have a category of it's own.
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 09:20 pm]

Sure, I think most of us realize that traditional, folkloric style Cuban music isn't jazz, and therefore shouldn't be called what it isn't. I'm often surprised that the jazz magazines cover so many recordings that have only a tangental connection with improvised music. In the case of great, traditional Cuban music, it's important for people to hear it because it shows where the more "progressive," modern, "jazz" version of the music came from -- the roots. I think the Grammy people -- and I'm a big critic although I'm a voting member of LARAS -- have it close to correct when they created the -- I believe -- "Traditional" Tropical (meaning mostly Cuban, but not necessarily) music, in addition to salsa, merengue, and Latin jazz. So, I don't see a problem here. Hilton Ruiz playing CuBop type arrangements is "Latin jazz" to me; son recordings from Santiago de Cuba are not part of that tradition.

  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 10:00 pm]
   Mark, weren't you advocating earlier that Brazilian should be it's own category also? (Might have been someone else... leaping forums gets confusing). My point is that if son recordings from Santiago de Cuba are not part of the latin-jazz tradition, then how can Brazilian music be sub-categorized fairly? Or not even sub-categorized... simply exist as it's own entity without the additional inclusion of some kind of "Tropical" category to encompass these forms. Here's a question - is Jobim and Brazilian music that the Brazilians themselves don't consider latin-jazz any less latin-jazz than the Cuban folkloric music? I think they are about equalalent in their "lack of latin-jazz-isms" and thus neither should be included under the umbrella "latin-jazz" Brings me back to George and Chris' initial statement, which I agree with, further fragmentation confuses.
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 10:22 pm]

My point is based on the many profound differences between the cultures of Brazil and the Spanish speaking countries (which have many differences as well). The simple point is that while someone in Chile or Argentina or Ecuador has some association with the concept of being a "Latino" or "Hispanic," Brazilians do not. It's something else -- their own thing. We here in the North sometimes fail to understand the great differences. They are significant. I'll go along with Chris and many others and agree that fragmentation -- labeling, putting people and music in boxes -- it's good, but we can't change basic facts: Brazilians are Brazilians, not Cubans. Their music does not, with only a few minor exceptions, have any rhythmic relationship to what comes out of the Spanish speaking Caribbean. There are links between the styles and instrumentation among Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia and the rest, but those links are not there to the Brazilian culture. It's the history of slavery -- the Portuguese brought their slaves from Portuguese holdings in Africa, the Spanish from their holdings to their New World colonies. Those poor people had different traditions, different instruments, different music. The physical isolation, until the advent of better transportation and communicaiton not that many years ago, allowed these traditions to evolve each in their own way in regions of Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere. That's why these styles are so distinct from one another.

So, in the same way we wouldn't want to arbitrarily walk up to someone on the street and say, "Hey, I don't care, but today I'm making you an Ethiopian," I don't believe we can lay the term "Latin" on the Brazilian culture.

  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 10:24 pm]
   Oops, another typo. I meant to write that creating labels, putting into boxes, etc., as Chris and others have stated, "isn't good." Sorry.
  A. from el Presidente in the music room [Feb 24 - 10:35 pm]
   Interesting point, made off-handedly: do we consider all music of Africa "African music," whether from West or South or East? The different rhythmic strains are easily identified. It's a huge continent. No, the JJA is not having an African jazz category this year.
  A. from Brownman in Toronto - and it's DAYUM cold! [Feb 24 - 10:41 pm]
   Ahhhh... I think I'm getting you now - it's the "latin" part of the term "latin-jazz" that's buggin' you right? Because of the vastly different lineage between "latin america" and the portuguese slave history. I dig what your saying brother, but I still think that the further splintering of the category and the harm it does supercedes the need to acknowledge that Brazilian history is not taken into account in the term "latin-jazz". Please don't hate me for it. :)
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 10:52 pm]

We are talking about musics that have some connection to jazz -- it's, to me, the issue of whether or not to lump the vastly different Brazilian styles under the "Latin jazz" umbrella that's the question. I had planned to write a paper on this for IAJE this year, but missed the deadline. I'll do it again next year. There are many cultural, historic and linguistic reasons why Brazilians are not, and do not consider themselves, Latinos. Hence, their music is not "Latin" music unless they are playing a "Latin" style. Basically, Afro-Cuban music is in four, and Brazilian is in two. Was anyone at IAJE in Long Beach a year ago for the Latin jazz jam? The Brazilians came, and stood on the sidelines moving oddly when the Latinos were playing a charanga. Their bodies don't even know how to move to that kind of clave! Think of a samba -- it's as different as night and day. Again, we are trying -- or some people are -- to put the Brazilians and their music in a box where thjey really do not belong.

  A. from Bobby Ramirez [Feb 24 - 11:11 pm]
   Mark hi....I see your point. Please read my point of "distinctions" section. This is not about laying a term on the Brazilian culture. This is about the contemporary demographics between Brazilian rhythms and Jazz in the United States. You also have to look at it not from the point of view of the Brazilian culture, but from the American musical landscape point of view.

The language of American Jazz is as much a part of the Brazilian side of Jazz. It is find that Brazilian folks don't associate with the term "Latin." I don't think that that should have anything to do with "Brazilian rhythms" as a part of the "Latin Jazz" experience in the United States.

More power to Brazilian people that want to forge a unique cultural identity in America. But, in the end, I think that American Jazz musicians should have equal bragging rights on what to call this music. Thank goodness for countless American Jazz musician recording Brazilian music. If it was not for them, Brazilian rhythms and music would be nowhere in America. Jazz should not be used to move forward any one culture awareness through category. Jazz is equality. Jazz is inclussive.

Having said that, I'm all for education of the music of Brazil in the schools, as well as other cultures. I would like to see many more Brazilian musicians recording American Jazz swing. br

  A. from Brownman in Toronto - late for a gig! [Feb 24 - 11:13 pm]
   Hey Mark, I gotta jet to a gig, but I wanna talk more about this - let's do so via email - I've already sent you a quick note. We'll continue there, if you don't mind. Facinated by your thoughts and not in complete agreement with them, which makes for the best kinds of friendly exchanging of mindsets and ideologies. Let's just promise to not call each other names. :) Lates brother - look forward to hearing from you . And do write that paper - and send it to me when you're done... would love to read it. I'm out - peace!
Q. from Bobby Ramirez [Feb 24 - 08:12 pm]
Greetings fellow panelists and moderators:

I'm Bobby Ramirez, musician and publisher of LatinJazzClub Magazine.

I begin by saying thank you for allowing me to participate in this discussion. My primary reason for participating is not so much as to be able to present my opinion, but to learn from you and expand my knowledge in discussing this issue today.

First, I would be remiss if I didn't mention and acknowledge the recent passing of conguero Mongo Santamaria. In the same breath I'll also mention, most notably Tito Puente, Chico O'Farrill, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo, Machito, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz, and many other master musicians too long of a list to mention that have left us with a legacy, vision and pursue of this American artform known as Latin Jazz. We would not be here today without their contributions.

It is also very important to note that this discussion is taking place during Black History Month. Latin Jazz is a contemporary "umbrella" term stemming from "Afro-Cuban Jazz" and Cubop" with diverse roots in New Orleans and created in New York City: a fusion of music and rhythm that emerged as part of a massive socio-cultural revolution in the 1930's & 40's transcending racial lines between black, white and Latino musicians.


What's in a name? From my viewpoint as a musician, I think that to label a musician or styles of music is like discrimination. Labels always create negative repercussions and take away from the true natural artistry of a musician. However, this statement is a utopia.

Having said that, concerning this discussion, I feel that the current categories that address the Latin side of Jazz--"Afro-Caribbean Jazz" and "Brazilian Jazz" that are part of the Jazz Journalist Association's annual award ceremony are not correct. My opinion is that the JJA awards should have only one category: Latin Jazz. The core of my opinion is two-fold: INCLUSIVENESS and DEMOGRAPHIC.


Ask yourself the following question: Do the current categories (listed above) truly represent the full demographics of the "Latin" side of Jazz in America today? The answer, no. First, I feel that a category representing the Latin side of Jazz must reflect the demographics of the entire Latin America Diaspora. Latinos are now the biggest minority group in the United States. That means that this group consist of many people from "every" part of Latin America. Brazil is a part of Latin America. The category of "Latin Jazz" truly reflects the diversity and growing demographics of "Latin rhythms" in the United States.


Up until know, Brazilian and Cuban rhythms have had the most significant impact on Jazz. However, many other rhythms from other Latin American countries like Peru, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, and others are beginning to slowly surface within the rhythmic context of Jazz. As these category currently stand, they are not inclusive of other rhythms from the Latin American Diaspora as represented in today's American cultural demographics as a whole--thereby excluding other less popular rhythms from Latin America that can potentially influence Jazz.


I would like to make a distinction about the music of Brazil. In my opinion, there is a distinct difference when speaking about "Brazilian music" as oppose to speaking about "Brazilian Jazz." Brazilian music represents all music and rhythms of Brazil in its purest form without any outside influences. However, when speaking of Brazilian Jazz--which is what we're discussing today--equal weight must be given to the influence of American Jazz that include rhythmic aspects of Brazilian music.

Having said this, there are those that would argue that Brazilian Jazz as is underserved in America therefor it deserves its own category. This statement is totally misrepresented. There are many musicians today that include bossa nova and/or samba rhythms in their recordings. Examples are Grammy winner Pat Matheny, Paquito D'Rivera and many others. A more accurate statement would be that not many "Brazilian" musicians are recording and promoting "Brazilian Jazz" in the United States and not many media outlets are taking notice. Dispite this apparent lack of attention for "Brazilian Jazz", I would agree that "Brazilian music" is still widespread in the United States (please read previous paragraph noting the distinction between "Brazilian music" and "Brazilian Jazz").

Some would also argue that lots of Brazilian Jazz is being erroneously mistaken and/or "labeled" as "Smooth Jazz" in the United States. Therefor, Brazilian music/Jazz has lost its identity within the mainstream music scene in the United States. This is not a good thing. It's like when some argue that "salsa" has nothing to do with "Cuban" music. Obviously, the question of identity is important especially to a culture that has contributed to the fusion of Jazz music. However, while I think this situation merits attention, it is not enough to warrant adding a separate category for Brazilian Jazz--a music that has equal influences of American Jazz. Today and in the future, as America becomes more culturally diverse, it is not fair that Jazz be used as a tool to help reaffirm the identity of any one culture in America--in this case, by establishing its own separate category as part of the JJA awards. Brazilian Jazz is part of the Latin Jazz experience in the United States of America. As American musicians have been received with open arms in virtually every country and continent in the world, Jazz has always been equally open to the influence of any and all cultures.

continues next post......(IN CONCLUSION)

  A. from Tech in NYC [Feb 24 - 08:24 pm]
   [Intentionally blank]
Q. from Bobby Ramirez [Feb 24 - 08:14 pm]
continue from last post....


Latin Jazz is the best contemporary term to describe the Latin side of Jazz. The word "Latin" already represents all Latin American countries including Brazil as well as the Caribbean basin--an entire region of the world that was mostly influenced by African rhythms and ancestral Spanish settlers. I would also say that some interesting flamenco rhythms from Spain are being fused with Jazz and recorded by musicians like Jerry Gonzalez and others--yet another example of widespread "demographics" and the ability of Jazz to be "inclusive" and open to new rhythmic possibilities.

Thus, the Latin tinge in Jazz can include other countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, etc. By singling out Brazil and/or regionalizing the categories, you're in effect discriminating against other countries (mentioned above). As writers and journalists of Jazz, it is important not to discount the importance of other perhaps less influential yet equally valid rhythms from the entire Latin American Diaspora. Lets be fair in bringing attention to the whole as oppose to one particular part of "Latin" America. By presenting the category as "Latin Jazz", you don't "exclude" anyone from participating in this category, including anglo musicians like Charlie Haden who put out a great "Latin Jazz" record and win a Grammy, or John Doe band from Holland who record a great "Latin Jazz" CD that includes Afro-Cuban and bossa nova rhythms, or musicians like Alex Acuna who are responsible for fusing Jazz with Peruvian rhythms.

Unless you can provide very specific criteria and descriptions of "Brazilian Jazz" and Afro-Caribbean Jazz" for writers to follow, these categories tend to promote confusion rather than being an integral part of this Jazz fusion.

Mind you, the term "Latin Jazz" has a negative side in that it sounds too broad and has been erroneously used to describe bands/artists that are more into the dance side of Latin music. But, in today's musical spectrum, broad (Latin) diversity is widespread. Therefor, let's take a moment and present some parameters for Latin Jazz.

Jazz in its classic form is indicative of ragtime, Dixieland, classic straight ahead swing, bobop, etc. However, what happens when "Jazz" is influenced with the Latin tinge? The music is transformed with different harmonic and rhythmic patterns still retaining the Jazz vocabulary. These different harmonic and rhythmic patterns can include the bossa nova, samba, partido alto, Afro-Cuban, Afro_Peruvian, merengue, bomba, plena, tango, candombe and many other indigenous Afro-polyrhythms from the entire Latin American spectrum. This music also contains much Jazz improvisation and harmonic variation.

Granted, Brazilian and Cuban rhythms have accounted for most of the influence in Jazz. But, that does not mean that we should start singling out a specific country and forgetting about the rest of the Latin American Diaspora. Now that you have a Brazilian Jazz category, should we also consider having a tango Jazz category, or as pianist Danilo Perez performs his native Panamanian Jazz, or as saxman David Sanchez performs bomba and plena Jazz from his native Puerto Rico, or described as Afrorican Jazz by William Cepeda, respectively?

In what category do you put Danilo Perez, Afro-Caribbean or Brazilian Jazz? The answer is, none. He and everyone else recording Jazz with tinges of Latin rhythms would fit best in the category of "Latin Jazz." In what category do you put musicians that records bossa novas as well as Afro-Cuban Jazz? Again, he or she would fit best in the category of Latin Jazz. Is the category for Brazilian Jazz only for musicians of that country? What are the specific criteria? When you say Afro-Caribbean Jazz, do you include Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Barbados, or do you mean just Cuba and Puerto Rico? How about other countries like Mexico?

In what category do you put someone like Hermeto Pascoal? If you put him in the Brazilian Jazz category his music would set a precedent; thus, isolating everyone else that does not sound like him (no one sounds like him). Technically, he's one of those musicians that defy any category (period). However, if you had to pick one category for him, being that his music is so broad, he would probably fit best under "Latin Jazz" or "world music." Meaning, even going to an extreme by using Hermeto as an example, the "Latin Jazz" category holds its own without discriminating or leaving out other related rhythms.

In what category do you put pianist Omar Sosa? Certainly not "Afro-Caribbean" or "Brazilian Jazz." His music is best described as "Latin Jazz" which includes rhythms from Cuba, Brazil, Morocco, Venezuela, Ecuador and the United States.

If tomorrow pianist Keith Jarrett plays a concert in Uruguay and is so consumed by the indigenous rhythms of that country that he decides to record Jazz standards using candombe rhythms fuse with Jazz melodies, what category would you put him in? (1) Would you be scrambling to create yet another sub-category? (2) Even though the music sounds compelling, lets just skip nominating him because there's no category applicable to this new sound, or (3), this music fits perfectly under the umbrella of "Latin Jazz."

You're a great musician native of Colombia or Argentina and you want to mix a tinge of tango or cumbia rhythm with the Jazz vocabulary. Suddenly, you realize that there's no opportunity to experiment with these rhythms because Jazz Journalists are more keen to music of Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian Jazz origin as determined by the current categories. Thus, Jazz music loses out on the possibility of perhaps creating a new fusion variation of Jazz that subsequently may prove to be pivotal--as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms influenced Jazz--to further expand its evolution.

Lastly, the Grammy awards are a great model that recognize and celebrate the different styles of Brazilian popular music as well as many forms of Caribbean music. At the same time, the Grammy awards also wisely recognize the relationship of Brazilian and Caribbean rhythms with American Jazz as part of the overall "Latin Jazz" experience.

As a musician, I see Jazz as a doorway that is open to endless possibilities and enables me to explore new territories and attempt to expand its boundaries--fertile ground for creativity. And within the Latin side of Jazz, it is important that it remain inclusive and not exclusive or divided. As we examine the current demographics of the Latin side of Jazz, it is also important that this category embrace a future vision and direction of where this music will be 20-40 years from now. Giving its history and how it has evolved, plus its current demographics, the wise choice as a category is "Latin Jazz."

Percussionist John Santos says, "Latin Jazz is a classic American artform." And within the context of this artform lay rhythms like the Brazilian bossa nova, samba and Afro-Cuban that continue to thrive, as well as many other rhythms yet to be discovered from Latin America that will no doubt empower Jazz and help it to evolve in years to come.

  A. from Alan Stanbridge in Toronto [Feb 24 - 08:23 pm]
   Thanks for an interesting and provocative post, Bobby. It seems that (in arguing for basically one category of 'Latin Jazz') you're suggesting a classic American (as in US of A) 'melting pot' model. In Canada, in contrast, the social model tends to be referred to as the 'mosaic' (with multiculturalism as part of Canadian legislation). If we apply these social models to the music topic we're addressing this evening, it seems that both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses - I'd like to hear you say a little more about the potential weaknesses of the 'melting pot' model you propose.
  A. from Bobby Ramirez [Feb 24 - 08:41 pm]
   Allan hi......I would have to give your question a great deal of thought, and to discuss the weaknesses of a diversed "melting pot" society might require stepping away from this topic.

As a musician, I can only speak for myself as to the great benefits of being a part of a multicultural society.

  A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 08:43 pm]
   I do think that there are major differences between Afro-Cuban Jazz and Brailizan jazz. Certainly one would never mistake Machito's music for Joao Gilberto's. There are overlaps, such as when Claudio Roditi plays with Paquito D'Rivera, but to group everything under one name (Latin Jazz) while at the same time decrying the need to categorize anything seems fruitless. And to praise the Grammys as a great model for anything is plain silly! That award show, along with the way that jazz categories are voted on, is a complete disgrace. But that's another topic.

Categories should only be considered a guide to listeners, realizing that artists do not have to stay in a specific box throughout their career. If anything, we need more names of styles when it comes to Latin Jazz, not less.

  A. from Alan Stanbridge in Toronto [Feb 24 - 08:56 pm]
   Hi Scott. So, having acknowledged the weaknesses of a single categorization (a criticism which I'm basically in agreement with), how about the potential weaknesses of multiple genres and sub-genres? Aside from becoming simply confusing (as it has in popular music: house; techno; trip-hop; jungle; etc; etc), doesn't it simply serve to further fragment a music scene which is really in need of some cohesion? This isn't a bleeding-heart "Why can't we all just get along?" argument, but rather the expression of a genuine concern that the kind of radical fragmentation that a system of multiple labels tends to imply is one that ultimately does damage to any broader public understanding of the music.
  A. from Howard in Tompkins Square [Feb 24 - 09:27 pm]
   Jungle, house, techno, etc: yeah, confusion and not educational, but rather marketing hopscotch: this one's newer, this one's funkier, this one's faster, etc. Identifying cultural differences -- and as Chris and Mark suggest, educating by paying attention and distinguishing the real differences (maybe they're value differences? Process differences? Leading to further thought. . .) -- is indeed a taks for journalists and educators, even in such popularizing exercises as awards.
  A. from Alan Stanbridge in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:39 pm]
   The role of education is certainly crucial here (and that's hardly an argument - as an educator - that I'm likely to take issue with), but it does raise the question of what our various labels and categorizations are *for*. Maybe this is why the debate tonight seems rather circular - we're all talking about things that are the same, but different. Do the JJA awards want to acknowledge, for example, someone's cultural heritage or their musical hybridity?
  A. from Howard in around [Feb 24 - 09:44 pm]
   the JJA awards are meant to single out excellence in areas of jazz activity that show particular activity. Not to be pc about it; so no, we don't have a Native People's jazz category, but if there were to be a lot of activity, we'd want to celebrate that. Not the hybridity, not the roots, but the simple fact of activity within certain understood parameters, that may be rather different than other parameters. Like, if "Latin jazz" doesn't rest on clavé, are we right to celebrate it as such? Oh oh, I'm gonna get in trouble now. . . Chris?
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:45 pm]
   Hey Alan, so - to try and keep the topic at hand, in hand - are you then advocating that under the term latin-jazz the "Tropical" artforms not be included? If so, then why the inclusion of "Brazilian"? Isn't the distinctiveness about the same? ie - if Brazilian isn't latin-jazz and merits it's own category, then should "Tropical" be erected as well? I know the issue here James wanted us to bat around is "who's going to get recognized by these awards and what's unfair". It seems that a sub-categorization creation of Brazilian music to differentiate it from Latin-jazz would also spark the creation of a "Tropical" category (out of "fairness"), as you mention the Grammy people have done. So again - isn't all this contributing to the problem? I'm back to agreeing with George's initial statement that further splintering will cause more confusion that anything else. I do agree with you though - the wonderous Brazilian distinctiveness does put a wrench into the works in terms of the label "latin-jazz"... and they CERTAINLY don't consider themselves latin-jazz.
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:50 pm]
   Howard, the cláve is only relevant in certain styles...forget about it when it comes to Flamenco and other styles. So, I gather you are safe for now, right Chris?
  A. from Chris Washburne in In the Ivory Tower [Feb 24 - 09:50 pm]
   Howard - if you can move around, so can I. And your comment about clave and its relation to Latin jazz does get you mired in trouble. But not from me. I hear clave is most of Louis Armstrong's playing. Armstrong, the greatest Latin jazz trumpeter of all time. (Sorry Chocolate).
  A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 09:54 pm]
   I just hear too many differences between Afro-Cuban jazz and Brazilian jazz, as I'm sure anyone does, to think that they should be under the same musical category, except when one discusses jazz in general. If another Latin or South American country develops its own form of jazz that is much different than Afro-Cuban, I would say it should also have its category.
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 09:59 pm]
   I agree strongly with Scott on this. There is a vast gulf between Brazilian and Afro-Cuban styles (these are the two big stylistic areas that are most understood by the public and most performed and recorded).

I think it's really a joke when DownBeat (sorry to pick on another magazine) runs a "Latin" column and then writes in it about Brazilian musicians (as they did exclusively in a recent one). In JAZZIZ, I've fought to maintain a separation between "Brazilian" and "Latin" and try to sort out the various sub-catagories in each when they come up. And yes, I've been very interested in and have written a lot about Venezuelan, Peruvian, Panamanian and other "Latin" music styles that are distinctly outside the Cuban "Latin jazz" box.

  A. from Howard in Hernando's Hideaway [Feb 24 - 10:05 pm]
   Louis the Great could play with anyone -- sure, there's clavé in his phrasing, as there's 3/2 in lots of Jelly Roll (and it was Larry Birnbaum who pointed out to me that many of the "Latin" names in early New Orleans music were from Mexico). But he wasn't playing Latin jazz. Nor was Jelly Roll. They were playing jazz. They're thing dominates, not the Latin thing. Miles isn't playing Latin jazz on Sketches of Spain. I heard Lester Bowie sit in at the VIllage Gate Latin jazz jam once, and I thought it was pretty good jazz, but the Latin cats were down on him as being unable to cut their thing.
Q. from Richard Blondet in New York City [Feb 24 - 08:32 pm]
I fully understand the argument being made with regards to placing both Brazilian & Latin music in separate categories. Yet, won't we be back to square one? Why even have a separate category/award for either? Why not just put Brazilian Jazz and Latin Jazz on a par with straight ahead Jazz? Couldn't a Brazilian or Latin Jazz CD be a Best Jazz recording of the year as much as a straight ahead Jazz project? Our priority and desire is for Brazilian/Latin to achieve more respect, but aren't we also festering that discrimination George Rivera mentioned by merely separating it to award each with its own distinct honor?
  A. from James Hale [Feb 24 - 08:50 pm]
   Speaking as someone who votes in the JJA Awards and DownBeat Critics Poll, I don't think categorizing - either formally or informally - a recording as Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, etc. lessens its chances of winning my attention as Album of the Year. I just don't see it as an either/or question.
  A. from Larry Birnbaum in New York City [Feb 24 - 08:51 pm]
   Why focus categories? Categories are created for convenience, in order to find the albums you're looking for in a record store, for example. And if there is enough Mexican jazz (it does in fact exist), and enough of an audience for it , it might eventually rate its own Grammy Award. But bear in mind that there is no award category for free jazz or bebop or Euro-jazz, and all the musicians in those "categories" must compete with one another in the same award arena. The creation of a Latin-jazz category has given Latin-jazz musicians a higher profile, if only just slightly, than they would otherwise have. If there were an award category for Martinican jazz, Mario Canonge would be, if nothing else, an award winner. But in the long run the success of the category depends on the success of the music itself. Labels are just a marketing too.
  A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 08:51 pm]
   I would prefer the opposite. If Brazilian and Afro-Cuban jazz were no longer categorized and it was just one jazz category, it would be very rare when a Latin jazz recording would win any rewards. I think by keeping it separate, it gives this rich music more attention. If anything, I wish there were also awards given for trad/swing and avant-garde jazz in addition to the main category.
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:01 pm]
   Hey Scott, Again - I think there's a certain temporal nature here that we're forgetting... that an art has to GROW with time to a certain point before it's "ready" for sub-categorization... and though - yes, I completely agree that latin-jazz artists are less likely to win a Grammy if they're lumped into the jazz cateogory - my question is this - is the art of "latin-jazz" ready to be sub-categorized? Some might argue yes - into Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian - but then what of the millions of other forms? I think if a sub-categorization is to occur, then it can't merely be into these 2, as they don't represent enough of the art encompassed by the word "latin-jazz". Should a third category be made called "Misc"? I, personally, don't think so and feel that Latin-Jazz - in the current state of development of the art suffices.
  A. from Howard Mandel in NYC, downtown [Feb 24 - 09:16 pm]
   Hi everyone -- sorry to jump in late, but I think it would be valuable to explain why the Jazz Awards ever instituted separate "Afro-Caribbean" and "Brazilian Jazz" categories. It did indeed have to do with some JJA members proposing that Brazilian jazz -- by groups typically recorded/released by Malandro Records, by students of Richard Bourkas of the New School, who is teaching "Brazilian Jazz" -- was a form ready for promotion in its own right. "Afro Caribbean" instead of Latin Jazz or Afro Cuban came from the great Eddie Palmieri, who uses that term inclusively, so that yes, Haiti and Dominican Republic and Cuba and PR and many other of the islands' specialties could fall under one umbrella.

I personally am unaware that Argentinian, Peruvian, or Chilean music is predominantly influenced by the same Yoruba rhythms that affect dance forms from the Hispanic peninsula. And I find the term "Latin" truly confusing -- does it refer to Romance languages? I'm quite willing to be educated on this -- by Mark, Chris, BobbyR or any of the panelists -- but I certainly understand, too, that the Brazilian musicians (Flora and Airto, Hermeto, Duduka DeFonseca, etc.) don't id themselves as "Latin."

I'm against category inflation in the JJA Awards. I don't want to see a separate award for Best Radical Jewish Jazz album of the year, or Eastern European rhythm review, etc. I trust the JJA members, and pretty much the DB critics, to distinguish how they want to vote for Perez or Sanchez or Sosa or Chango Domingues or Michel Camilo or Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Giving up another category is, as others have rightly posted, a two-edged sword, giving visibility and threatening ghettoization. I'm not aware of it often fulfilling the threat, though someone above mentioned the Blue Note and radio stations downplaying their interest in Latin jazz.

Ok, I haven't answered anything. Mosaic or melting pot (more like a stew pot, where the ingredients don't dissolve, but take on each others' flavors). Ribot's take on Arsenio Rodriguez or Shorter with Nascimento. Gonzalo and Lovano, David Murray's Latin Jazz Band and Jane Bunnett. Hilton Ruiz and Ronnie Cuber. (Mixed metaphosr ahead) Yummy listening! Go, marketers and encyclopedists, figure out what pigeon holes to build and stuff.

Q. from Richard Blondet in New York [Feb 24 - 08:57 pm]
I agree with Chris Washburne all the way. By creating separate categories, we are only festering the discrimination against this music that George Rivera spoke of.

A question with regards to Bobby Ramirez's commentary. While the term "Latin Jazz" may be beneficial for an artist such as Bobby and others, what say with regards to an artist such as David Sanchez or Danilo Perez who do NOT exclusively always add rhythms or elements of their homeland, but play straight ahead JAZZ with the best of them? Are we going to stigmatize them as being just LATIN JAZZ musicians or simply avant-garde JAZZ musicians? The term LATIN JAZZ is only limiting its exponents from benefitting equally from the forces who control the festival and jazz venue bookings because the perception will be that those who interpret a "Latin" Jazz, can and are only capable of interpreting a specific musical form.

  A. from Bobby Ramirez [Feb 24 - 09:43 pm]
   Hey Richard.....I think that a musician is represented by his body of musical (recorded) work. It's a good thing that musicians like Danilo and David keep changing and are able to play many different styles. This is like the cure to the common cold: keep those jazz journalisst guessing so much that it would not be prudent to categorize that musician, accept to call him or her a "musician."

I think that if a musicians does not want to get stuck in a category, one has to move on from Latin Jazz to other Jazz styles. However, this is easy for me to say being an independent musician and not subjected to the pressures from being signed to a record label. br

Q. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:00 pm]
Larry stated that the categorization of Latin Jazz benefits the sub-genre, while Scott states that if it were not for the categorization it would be a very rare occasion when a "Latin Jazz" recording wins. What is it about the style that would lead one to believe that it could not compete against Bop, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, or any other form that competes in say the Grammy categories?
  A. from James Hale [Feb 24 - 09:03 pm]
   Nothing, except the pigeon-holing prejudices of NARAS members.

Good music should be good music, period.

  A. from Alan Stanbridge in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:17 pm]
   But James, you know as well as I do that the argument that "Good music should be good music, period" is one that, while philosophically appealing, simply doesn't play out in the 'real world' (whatever that is...) - one man's meat is another man's poison; de gustibus non est disputandum, etc. The discussion so far seems to moving towards an understanding that's there's a specifically *musical* argument about the question categorization, then there's a *marketing* argument. Given the nature of the world we live in (and my next comment probably isn't going to go down so well...), perhaps both of these arguments are equally important.
  A. from Howard in East Village [Feb 24 - 09:19 pm]
   And, Alan ol' buddy, a 3rd argument: a social one, which is where those musicians concerned about over-categorization come in.
  A. from Alan "The Sociologist" Stanbridge in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:23 pm]
   Howard, ol' buddy, more on the social argument, please...
  A. from Chris Washburne in New York [Feb 24 - 09:25 pm]
   All those arguments and more are equally valid. Social, economic, musical, racial, cultural. But they also share a dialectical relationship - meaning - they are inseparable and influence one another. You can not take one without all the others. That is the beauty of it - it complexity.
  A. from Howard in Tompkins Sq apt. [Feb 24 - 09:37 pm]
   the social argument, as opposed to the esthetic and/or marketing arguments, involves self-identification, community cohesion, musical education (along with other cultural values) via oral tradition, self-determination of cultural evolution (not market-driven determination; the difference between what Omar Sosa is trying to do and what Johnny Pacheco did in the most commercial projects at Fania, for instance) . . . I don't consider myself an assimilationist, trying to merge all cultures together; I do like to mix it up with people of other cultures, and their musics. I like to acknowledge and learn about their differences, and not buy into them because they're exotic or fashionable (marketing) or presumably of higher esthetics than another, but as a kind of social, uh, intercourse. Am I making sense, Mr. Sociologist?
  A. from Stanbridge in TO [Feb 24 - 09:42 pm]
   Hey, if intercourse is involved, I'm all for it! The argument is well-taken, Howard, but it's an argument which simply highlights the redundancy of specific categories, especially those based on cultural specificity.
Q. from James in Ottawa [Feb 24 - 09:10 pm]
Let me play devil's advocate for a second and say we follow Mark Holston's suggestion of two categories of "Brazilian" and "Latin". How does that strike participants? Is that more inclusive/representative than Brazilian and Afro-Caribbean?
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:17 pm]
   There where would urban influenced latin-jazz artists like "Omar Sosa" and "Yosbany Terry" and "Jesus Diaz" fall? I understand Mark's appear for Brazilian music as it's own category - but again - what of the other forms that don't fit... like Cuban Folkloric music? Is that form not just as distinctive a form as Brazilian music that's NOT to be considered latin-jazz?
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:19 pm]
   I believe that if there is to be sub-categorization then there should be two categories, "Latin Jazz", which would include all forms of Afro-Caribbean, South American, and Iberian strands of jazz, and "Brazilian Jazz", which would include all the ryhthms of Brazil.
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:22 pm]
   In response to Ali regarding the music of artists like Omar Sosa, Yosvany Terry and Jesus Diaz...if it's not Jazz, it's not Jazz.
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:30 pm]
   George, is that to say you don't consider Omar Sosa, Yosbany Terry and Jesus Diaz's contributions to the latin-jazz world "jazz"? I'm just curious about your outlook on these artists now and realize I'm straying from the topic at hand.
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:40 pm]
   No, what I am referring to is something that I think Mark pointed out, and that is to say that we have to differentiate between plain old dance music, including a typical descarga, and jazz based performance.
Q. from Larry Birnbaum in New York City [Feb 24 - 09:10 pm]
Isn't Latin jazz itself a sub-category of world jazz. I mean, there has been an growing fusion of jazz with African, European, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern and other types of music, besides Latin American or Afro-Caribbean. And world jazz musicians often collaborate across genre lines. I even came across an album than combined Cuban, Indian and Indonesian music, plus jazz, of course.
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:33 pm]
   I would say it's a sub-category of Jazz, period...I mean, if we're going to get down to the basics we need to define the term "Jazz", then we can distinguish if what passes for "Latin Jazz" passes muster. For instance, how would you categorize the Fort Apache Band's "Rumba Para Monk"?
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 09:36 pm]
   I think the Apache's "Monk" album is still "Latin jazz," because the rhythmic ingredients are drawn from Afro-Cuban traditions (as I recall it). Sure it's on the progressive end, but still "Latin jazz."
  A. from James in Ottawa [Feb 24 - 09:40 pm]
   Mark... aren't you headed down a slippery slope? So, if Jerry Gonzalez does Monk it's Latin. Danilo Perez does Monk, it's Latin. But if a Brazilian musician does Monk, it's Brazilian?
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 09:47 pm]

Again, to me it depends on what rhythmic tradition the musician is drawing from, regardless of their national origin. There are salsa bands in Rio and samba bands in Seattle. If someone is giving a samba, choro or forro twist to Monk, then it would be up to the astute journalist to mention it, if only to educate the reader (and, of course, show how much they know about obscure styles!)

  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 09:52 pm]
   Me too Mark, I feel that Fort Apache as a whole is latin-jazz, beyond the single record. Their intent is one of jazz musicians approaching Afro-Caribbean forms... ie - improvisation is at the forefront and the spirit of jazz - in my mind - is preserved... it's the emphasis no the Afro-Caribbean that makes Fort Apache Latin-Jazz... and - as Mark states - ultra-progressive at that - which, as Miles' deep lineage defined, is an integral part of the evolution of all jazz.

Q. from Richard Blondet in New York City [Feb 24 - 09:18 pm]
James, you said that there is no reason a Latin/Brazilian recoprding couldn't stand up against a straight Jazz recording in an awards situation other than the pigeon-holing prejudices of NARAS members.

This is exactly why I am all for inclusiveness rather than a completely separate award. The suggestion that Sub-categorizing and making Latin/Brazilian visibly and promotionally distinct from straight Jazz is going to help more than hinder is a unicorn. It's ALREADY separated and promoted as being something other than "Traditional" Jazz, when it should be presented as an evolution OF Jazz. A branch on the same tree. It should stand arm in arm WITH Jazz and not on a separate platform. I ask how can Latin/Brazilian ever be held in the same respect as Jazz by these same members who have prejudiced it for so long lest we implement them all on a same equal level. This is probably never going to happen due to those same folks. But separate awards for Latin Jazz and Brazilian Jazz, outside & away from the straight Jazz categories, will only be furthering the pigeon-holing prejudices you mentioned. Someone asked how do we determine the good music from the bad music? I say by lumping them all together on an equal footing is how.

  A. from James in Ottawa [Feb 24 - 09:35 pm]
   I think you have to investigate who pushed for those separate award categories, marketing categories, etc. It's easy enough to speak to the JJA issue, and Howard has done so under another post, but the Grammys represent a much bigger question. I think too much sub-categorization (what is it, 104 now) has weakened the whole awards structure, confused the public and made for a terrible awards program from a television viewer's standpoint. As a Canadian, I cringe when I see the Juno Awards going the same way, but I know that First Nations peoples have pushed for separate categories, as have Afro-Canadians (we don't use hyphenation as a rule, but I'm using a term Americans will relate to).
  A. from ha ha Howard in here [Feb 24 - 09:39 pm]
   Norah and Aretha on the same screen -- Herbie Hancock saying he's blown away by the Dixie Chicks: are you're saying the Grammies don't represent a great country :-)
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 09:42 pm]
   Isn't this great?

There have been very good points -- thanks Bobby for many, and I love your site -- about who fits and who doesn't. In the case of people like Danilo Perez, he's a Latino (from Panama, where I lived for two years, have visited many times and love dearly) but he's first and foremost a improvisation-based "jazz" musician who uses selectively "Latin," "Brazilian" and other rhythmic styles ("Mejorana" from Panama, for one). I think it's important to distinguish between Latinos (or Brazilians) who primarily play jazz and Latinos (and Brazilians and others) who play their national forms.

And, sure, a great album, like Duduka da Fonseca's album on Malandro, should be taken seriously as a jazz album (it's one of the year's best). I think the labels only serve to point the consumer who hasn't heard the work in the right, if somewhat broad, direction.

Q. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 09:58 pm]
Is it possible to come to a conclusion as to the term "Afro-Cuban Jazz" or "Latin Jazz", and the sub-categorization of "Brazilian Jazz"?
  A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 10:04 pm]
   It seems like it's possible to come to a wide variety of conclusions. I don't think we'd get unanimity for any of these choices. I do think Brazilian Jazz is a music all its own, separate from Afro-Cuban. But I tend to be in the minority, since I think Norah Jones is mediocre at best and I think the jazz world should completely boycott (and picket) the Grammies!
  A. from Chris Washburne in Upper West Side [Feb 24 - 10:09 pm]
   George - I think coming to a conclusion is the last thing we should attempt. This process of constructive discussion should never reach a conclusion, but instead just keep evolving and growing as we all attempt understand the various perspectives and issues at play. For Mark and others, the labels assist in education, and serve as acknowledgement of Latino, Cuban, Brazilian, South American, Caribbean contributions to the music. Something which for many years has not been the case. That is a positive thing. But let's not even attempt to settle this in a three hour forum. Let's keep rapping about it.
  A. from Jazzmandel in home on the range [Feb 24 - 10:09 pm]
   If the jazz world boycotted the Grammies, would anyone notice? I think we did, actually. Or did NARAS boycott us? Congrats to Dave Holland, at least: quality *does* sometimes out.
  A. from Larry Birnbaum in New York City [Feb 24 - 10:10 pm]
   I think Afro-Cuban jazz, Latin jazz and Brazilian jazz are all valid terms to describe these types of music. I really don't see what the controversy is about. It just depends on the context.
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 10:11 pm]

I think we can all see that the term "Afro-Cuban Jazz" limits it to just music based on Cuban rhythmic styles, excluding some important and complementary Puerto Rican forms. But most of us know this term and "Latin Jazz" are fairly close and somewhat interchangeable.

I'd go, if pressed, with "Latin Jazz," the most generic, and have "Brazilian Jazz" as well. That draws a clear distinction between the styles of such artists as Poncho Sanchez on one hand and Trio Da Paz on the other.

  A. from the President in the same place [Feb 24 - 10:17 pm]
   And the winner is: "Latin jazz." The JJA ballot committee has spoken (not in Latin, Scott, sorry). We will have one category this year, no breakout for Brazilian music (sorry, Richard Boukas), and let the clavé fall where it may. This means Duduka's cd will compete with La Perfecta II and last year's winner Omar Sosa and Claudia Acuna in Latin Jazz album of the Year (I'm just guessing about those nominees -- the nomination ballot is going out this week, and no fix is in) -- and also with Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland's Big Band, etc. for Jazz Album of the Year (same re the nominees as above).
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 10:17 pm]
   I'm with you on prolonging the discussion until the day that it's all just Jazz, this is so long as it swings! However, for the sake of coming up with categories for the JJA awards, will Latin Jazz and Brazilian Jazz satisfy one and all?
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 10:32 pm]
   Howard, not EP and La Perfecta II! That's dance music, and nothing more. If we're going to take this seriously then perhaps we should include cats like Edward Simon's "The Process", Chano Dominguez's "Oye Como Viene", or even Jerry Gonzalez's "Los Piratas Del Flamenco", something with real teeth, instead of the same old rehashed beans.
  A. from Hman in Hhouse [Feb 24 - 10:38 pm]
   Ok, George -- I'm voting for SYOTOS Project, m'self. And it's time other panelists plug their Latin jazz faves for the Awards. Gentlemen (where are the ladies?)
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 10:51 pm]
   Does SYOTOS have an eligibl release?
  A. from Howard in near exhaustion [Feb 24 - 10:54 pm]
   Gotta check on SYOTOS eligibilities. Personally, I'm holding off on nominating the Caribbean Jazz Project, though. Adios amigos, por la noché.
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 11:02 pm]
   Re: my CD -> Since I'm the small fish here and Canadian and relatively unknown, I figure I'd pipe up and mention that Nick Ali & CRUZAO has a release out on Justin Time. And I'll marry anyone wishing to vote for it. I also have an ugly sister you can have. :) Here's a link to the CD's Justin Time page on their site for those that have no idea it exists:
Q. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 10:05 pm]
To be a bit frivolous and to borrow an idea partly thought up by Bill Minor, when is there going to be a real Latin jazz band, a band that sings in Latin? Then it could be called the Original Latin Jazz Band!
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 10:09 pm]
   Yeah, but then what would happen with "Afro-Cuban" Jazz???
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 10:14 pm]
   *laughing* Singing in latin! You mean actual latin - as in "arcarum portus quempiam". *more laughing* Well, they'd better dress the part too - brown robes and shaved heads I figure. You know what would be better Scott? A Pig-Latin Jazz Band, where everyone sang in Pig-Latin and improvised their assess off.
  A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Feb 24 - 11:01 pm]
   No, I think they should dress like regular Latin jazz musicians and sing the usual Latin jazz hits, in Latin. If I were a musician I'd record an album like that. Probably win 8 Grammies.
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 11:07 pm]
   I'm sorry Scott, but if you were a musician and recorded a record like that, we'd have to kill you and your family. *grin* But you're right - would probably win 8 Grammies (which is more than Norah *gasp*). "Dress like regular latin-jazz musicians" for me that means yellow spandex and a red cod-piece. Chris? George? I saw Chris at the Bluenote wearing a purple tuxedo with fire shooting out of the pockets once. Made Prince look like a first-rate ameatur.
Q. from Richard Blondet in New York City [Feb 24 - 10:18 pm]
Mark Holston wrote Danilo Perez is "first and foremost a improvisation-based "jazz" musician who uses selectively "Latin," "Brazilian" and other rhythmic styles...".

Yet on another message you also point out Fort Apache's RUMBA PA' MONK as being "Latin Jazz." In my mind, Jerry & Andy Gonzalez, Steve Berrios, Larry Willis, et al. are all to be described the same as you described Danilo Perez. Improvisation-based jazz musicians.

In my opinion, RUMBA PA' MONK is a JAZZ album. That it draws from other elements in its approach is only incidental. Remove those elements and it would be perceived as a Jazz recording by the critics.

Do you think that perhaps this music in question is being perceived with the wrong set of eyes? (Or in this case ears.) In other words, should we or shouldn't we look at an album such as RUMBA PA' MONK from a Jazz on the progressive side rather than a Jazz a lo Afro-Cubano?

  A. from Howard in the presidential palace [Feb 24 - 10:27 pm]
   Yr right, Richard; I think the Gonzalez bros were making that point, coming from the jazz side, not going to jazz from the Latin side (which they've done in other bands, even in Manny Orquenda's Libre). And actually Jerry had done it before, making it an avant garde statement on the Kip Hanrahan-produced album Ya Yo Me Curé. Where we are standing when we make our points makes a difference. The "Latin jazz" star would be someone breaking out from the Latin ghetto into the greater jazz world, then?
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 10:27 pm]
   Jazz with latin flavours versus latin with jazz flavours? Hmmmm... interesting Rich. I feel that Rumba Pa'Monk, because of it's highly concentrated emphasis on afro-caribbean rhythmic structures departs the world of jazz enough for it to NOT be perceived as merely "incidental". I think to group this under the heading "progressive jazz" would be to not acknowledge it's fundamental latin context. But again - it's all about how you perceive it and from which linage your ears are coming from... the afro-cuban rhythms impact my ear strongly enough that I need to call it something other than "jazz" and am happy - at this stage in the art's development - to call that record "latin-jazz".
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 10:32 pm]
   It's been a while since I listed to the Apaches' Monk album, so I stand corrected, although I often laugh a bit at people like Ray Barretto, whom I greatly respect, and Jerry Gonzalez when they loudly proclaim that they are not doing Latin jazz. Come one -- has anyone heard any of Ray's recent albums? I love them, but he's a conga player, playing Cuban patterns and not soloing that much. To me, it's great "Latin jazz." And, as I recall most of the Apache albums, they are very heavily into Afro-Cuban roots based rhythms. In the case of Danilo Perez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ed Simon and others of that bent, their infusion of "Latin" elements is pretty tame and subtle, so it's easy for me to place them in the "Latino coming from the jazz side of the street" camp.
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 10:34 pm]
   I second Brownman's observations on the "Rumba Pa'Monk" question.
  A. from Brownman in Toronto - and hungry... [Feb 24 - 10:48 pm]
   Why thank you Mark. :)
Q. from Richard Blondet in New York City [Feb 24 - 10:39 pm]
Hey Howard,

I don't believe that a "Latin jazz" artist exists. He or She is a Jazz musician that just so happens to be Latino. We don't refer to Coltrane or Miles music as African-American Jazz. It's Music. The term JAZZ itself is an umbrella term and has sub-styles (Swing, Free-Jazz, Hard Bop, Smooth, etc.) My contention is that Afro-Cuban Jazz, Brazilian Jazz & all of the styles that fall under the term Latin Jazz (Puertorican, Dominican, Venezuelan, Costa Rican, Colombian, etc.) should all fall under JAZZ as well. They are Styles of Jazz and not radically distinct genres on their own.

  A. from Howard in straightface [Feb 24 - 10:51 pm]
   Yep, again I agree; irony just doesn't come through the 'net. Latin jazz is nothing if not a *jazz* style, and a jazz root at that (as Chris said). I teach my Jazz class at NYU that almost all music made in America or heavily influenced by American music since 1915 (date of Jelly Roll's first published composition) are jazz, or jazz -influenced, and I'll have to be convinced otherwise. This is a broad statement, but gives me something to work with, reorganizing some of their perceptions. Wasn't Elvis "jazzing" country music? Who'd his gtr players listen to if not Eldon Shamblin of Bob Wills' Playboys fame -- a jazz guitarist. And so on. And then, the "Latin jazz artist" isn't even necessarily Latino. Just plays music with love, knowledge, skill and respect for the Latin traditions, and a desire to express him/herself from that perspective.
Q. from James in Ottawa [Feb 24 - 10:49 pm]
Closing in on 11 here in the east. Thanks to all who participated tonight, and especially to those musicians among us who keep making music, categories be damned. If you know of anyone you think would be interested in tonight's discussion, the transcript will be posted on our Web site. Thanks to Whit for the technical assistance, as ever.
  A. from Mark Holston [Feb 24 - 11:00 pm]
   Thanks everybody. It was nice chatting with you all.
  A. from George Rivera in NYC [Feb 24 - 11:08 pm]
   Same here, hopefully we can do it again sometime...good night to one and all...
  A. from Brownman in Toronto [Feb 24 - 11:18 pm]
   Thank you to all! I so enjoyed these exchanges of ideas. Thank you James for asking me. Was an honour to be the only young Canadian latin-jazzer amongst these luminaries voicing an opinion. Hope to see you all soon. And one last plug before I jet - please feel free to drop by and stick your head in. Thanks gang. Hasta luego!

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