Bossa nova and salsa have long borrowed from jazz harmony. Afro-Cuban orchestras led by Dizzy Gillespie and others brought Latin jazz to the fore in the late 1940s and 1950s when traditional swing bands were on the decline. In some ways, the trend of combining Latin and jazz peaked with the Broadway musical
The next etude, “Jazz Caliente,” combines an Afro-Cuban feel with a minor blues form. Merging blues forms with Latin is not uncommon in Latin jazz. Figure 13-3 shows you the chord changes to a minor blues form. There are many variations on the minor blues formula; the most basic blues progression includes only i, iv, and V chords. But as you know, jazz is based on harmonic sophistication. It naturally craves chordal variation and dissonance. Therefore, the minor blues outlined in
Minor blues form
The basic pattern of “Jazz Caliente” (see Figure 13-4) revolves around the one-five-nine-ten intervallic set. If you look at the first four bars, you will see this arpeggio used on the Amin9 chords. Here the chords are broken up so that you play the root, the fifth, the major ninth, and the major tenth (sometimes just called a third). This could be turned into an ostinato all by itself and applied to one-chord Dorian jams (à la Carlos Santana). This pattern could also serve as the basis for other Latin grooves, such as bossa novas and sambas.
Rhythmically, you'll notice the use of dotted quarter note — eighth patterns. This rhythm is ubiquitous in both Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music, though it is by no means the only ostinato used by these styles.
Other harmonic components to this etude include a quick natural minor jaunt leading into the first iv chord. This is found on beats three and four of measure four. In several spots you will also see the use of leading tones. Leading tones can be used to transition from one chord to another. You may lead into a new root by playing a note one half step below the new chord or one half step above it. For example, bars six, nine, eighteen, and twenty-one scoop into the root of the next measure from below. This is achieved by using leading tones on the “ands” of beat four. Leading tones from above are evident in measures six and eighteen (both dropping into E7-type chords). However, in this case they both fall on the “and” of beat two.
Another device used in bar fourteen is a half-step chord shift. If you look at this measure, you'll see that the Amin9 chord suddenly shifts into a B-flat min9 chord. This technique is common in both jazz and Latin. Half-step chord shifts create tension and excitement, and in an ensemble context they add a sudden burst of bitonality. The bitonality occurs as two chords — situated one half step apart — overlap briefly. Why does this happen? When you shift upward, the rest of the band may still be playing the original chord. You might think that would sound awful, but the reverse is actually true since the half-step chord shift is momentary. Playing half-step chord shifts actually creates interesting leading tones as well as emotional anticipation. In this case, the listener waits for the raised chord to drop back into its proper place. For example, in measure fourteen, the high B-flat on beat four acts, for all intents and purposes, as a more dramatic and suspenseful kind of leading tone.
Last but not least, take note of the knotty arpeggio in measure twenty-four. This lick uses both intervallic jumps and chromatics. Try creating your own closing riffs that mimic the Latin music you hear. Don't know what to listen to? See Appendix A for a few suggestions.
Figure 13-4. “Jazz Caliente”