Brazilian Bass Lines
Brazilian music, like all subgenres of Latin music, is far too vast to be reduced down to one or two patterns. But you have to start somewhere! Probably the best place to start is the famous bossa nova, which is a gentler, romantic variation of the samba. The bossa nova comes from Rio de Janeiro, a city in southeastern Brazil. It is a gentle, medium-tempo groove that is as cool as an ocean breeze. Antonio Carlos Jobim's catalog of standards has become the template for most tunes in the bossa nova style.
Samba is a ritualistic style of music and dance. Community groups called “escolas de samba,” or samba schools, keep the samba tradition alive through their annual performances at Carnaval. Carnaval is a colorful, often rowdy, festival that attracts thousands to parade grounds each year.
Most bassists approach a bossa (as it is often known for short) with the standard root-and-fifth approach. Hopefully by now you're noticing that this pattern is universal in bass playing. In Brazilian music, the groove is what sets this pattern apart from other root-and-fifth styles. Interestingly, many of Jobim's actual recordings use more of a root-to-root approach, which is even simpler than what most bassists would do today. Nevertheless, Figure 10-1 shows the typical rhythmic motif used by modern bossa nova bassists. This simple but elegant bass line was also made famous in the Steely Dan hit “Ricky Don't Lose that Number” (
Basic bossa nova
The bossa nova has a light, airy feel!
Bossa nova, like almost all other types of Latin music, uses straight eighths. This means it uses nonswing eighth notes. In a fundamental sense, the straight-eighth feel is what separates a Latin bossa from a typical midtempo jazz tune. They are almost opposite grooves. Bossa novas tend to use jazz harmonies, so it's common for jazz players to sprinkle bossa novas in between standard swing tunes.
As previously stated, the bossa nova is highly influenced, in a harmonic sense, by jazz. A chord used in both styles is the half diminished, or the minor seventh flat five chord. When you use the minor ii-V-I progression in Chapter 17, you'll delve more into the theory behind this type of chord. For now, just remember that this chord is used as a ii chord in a minor key. Also, when this chord appears in music, you
Now try mixing up the chords using minor seventh flat five chords and other harmonic extensions. In Figure 10-3, some of the fifths are played below the root. Technically, this creates a perfect fourth interval between the two pitches. (See measures four and six.) Given the role of the root, you should still think of the lower pitch as a fifth.
Using the half diminished or minor seventh flat five chord
This pattern uses flatted fifths or tritones!
Bossa nova chord variations