Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Chops: Latin Jazz 101 with Wayne Wallace

The trombonist and educator outlines the basics of the subgenre

Wayne Wallace (photo: Edwin Hacking)
Wayne Wallace (photo: Edwin Hacking)

Jazz pushes at perceived boundaries and eagerly integrates with other genres. It can be regional, such as New Orleans jazz, Chicago jazz, and Kansas City jazz. It can have defined parameters, as big-band swing and bebop do. There can be subtle blending, as found in cool and modal jazz; rugged individualism, as in hard bop; and extreme dynamics, as in avant-garde jazz, third stream, and free jazz. And then there is the true cross-cultural sound of Latin jazz, which incorporates musical elements from the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking regions of the Caribbean and South America.

The term “Latin jazz” has long been used as a catch-all phrase to describe a variety of musical forms that emerged in the United States. The seeds of these forms were planted in the 19th century and bore their first popular fruit in the musical explorations of Maurice Louis Gottschalk, W.C. Handy, and Jelly Roll Morton (who famously coined the term “the Spanish tinge” to describe a stylistic necessity in jazz). In the 1940s there was further evolution, as musicians like Mario Bauzá, Machito and His Afro-Cubans, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chano Pozo blended jazz harmonies with Caribbean and South American folkloric rhythms. Tito Puente, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Stan Kenton, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, and Stan Getz further blazed the trail for Latin jazz and Cuban-inspired jazz explorations.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.

Wayne Wallace

Wayne Wallace is a trombonist, composer, arranger, and leader of the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet; their latest album is The Rhythm of Invention. He is also professor of practice in jazz studies and jazz trombone at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.