Alliance for Jazz
CAJ President's Letter
by Chris Stevens
For me, and
I'm sure most of you, Jazz is a year-round passion. It doesn't have a
season, but it is undeniable that springtime is "jazz
season" in the schools. I have so enjoyed being out performing
with my Poly bands in addition to adjudicating, and having the
opportunity to hear so many fantastic young players and ensembles
from California schools up and down our state. The number and quality
of student musicians, directors, judges, clinicians, featured
artists, hosts, and all of the support staff are very inspiring and
energizing for our art form and its future. I have tremendous respect
for the accomplishments of the established programs (too many to list
here), as well as the new or younger directors, while they might not
have as much personal experience with jazz, are willing to bring
their groups out to festival for the experience and feedback. These
directors and programs deserve all the help and assistance we can
Our very own
CAJ State Jazz Championships are coming right up (please see the
article below for application and due dates)! If you are a director,
you are highly encouraged to enter your ensemble; please help spread
the word. A large turnout of participants is important for the
legitimacy of this endeavor, as we are committed to keeping this
going for the long term. I highly value the virtual aspect of this
"festival" which eliminates the travel considerations; it
also allows the judges to stop the recording at any time and make
more thoughtful and considered comments without talking over music
they are missing as they make their point.
It is hard
to believe that a month has already passed since our 2014 CASMEC
conference in Fresno. This was a wonderful gathering. All three of
our All-State Honor groups were outstanding, thanks to the tremendous
talent of the members and our awesome conductors. Our Educator's Hall
of Fame reception was very special, with three of our four inductees
in attendance. Look below for a call for performers and clinicians at
next year's 2015 conference; this will be the last conference in
Fresno before it moves to San Jose in 2016.
board is continually working to enhance the quality and quantity of
communication with our membership. We are very grateful for the
contribution of articles and content herein by Mike Vaccaro,
Francisco Torres, and all. No sooner was Ed Wolfe inducted into our
Hall of Fame that he stepped up to take the lead in revamping our www.cajazz.org website to
make it more accessible, user-friendly, and functional. Look for
these improvements in the coming weeks, and a huge thanks to Ed for
taking on this important work!
This is my
last newsletter writing as president, as my term expires at the end
of June; at that time, the amazing Lisa Butts will take on this role.
It has been my high personal honor and privilege to serve initially
on the last days of the IAJE California board as secretary and
through the transition to our independent CAJ. I look forward to
continuing on the board as past-president.
organization has not only survived that massive make over, but is
currently on track for a strong and bright future, thanks to the work
of so many. I would in particular like to mention and recognize Jill
DeWeese, who just recently retired from her position at Fullerton
Union High School. Jill was the treasurer for several years on the
previous CA IAJE board. When the decision was made to convert our
group to an independent 501c(3) organization, Jill was the one who
did the bulk of the homework and paperwork to see this through,
making our current existence possible. CAJ is eternally grateful to
Jill for this and all she has done for jazz and music education.
Please be on
the look out for information about our upcoming elections for the
positions of Secretary and President-Elect. Thanks to all!
Are you blessed with a wonderful and talented group of
students? If so, apply to have YOUR groups perform at the 2015
CASMEC Conference in Fresno February 19-22, 2015. We need
submissions for choral or instrumental groups who would like to
perform for all of the educators in our great state!
Do you have something exciting to share? Can your
knowledge or experience benefit others? If so, apply to host a
clinic at the 2015 CASMEC Conference in Fresno February 19-22, 2015.
We need educators and players to share what they know
with us so that everyone can improve their teaching
To apply, go to www.cbda.org and
click on DOCUMENTS: from there download the necessary forms and
return them before May 15, 2014 to be considered to perform or host a
annual CAJ State Jazz Championships will be held in May, 2014, and
will showcase many of the state's best jazz ensembles, combos, and
will be evaluated by two of the state's finest jazz educators and
receive both written and recorded comments on their performance. This
festival is unique because it involves no travel or expenses that go
along with traveling, and each group participating will be able to
view all bands and choirs competing in their categories. This would
never happen at a live jazz festival and is unique to our State Jazz
Winners get a cool plaque!
will be available for Jazz Choir, Jazz Combo, and Big Band. Levels
will be Jr. High/Middle School, High School, two and four year
Colleges as well as community ensembles. All ensembles except for
colleges will be grouped by school size.
consider entering your group in this amazing festival. Application deadline is April 15th, 2014. Video uploads
must take place by April 30th. The fee for each participating group
is only $195 for CAJ members and $245 for non-members.
forward to having your groups participate in this unique event. For
more information visit our website at: www.cajazz.org or
email us at: email@example.com.
Click here for an application:
Championship Application and poster.
these videos of the 1st Place winners from last year!
Long Beach Poly HS
Folsom High School "Jigsaw"
Hanford West HS
Folsom HS Jazz Choir
Walnut Creek Interm.
Admiral Akers M.S.
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clipped at the bottom!
Meet the 2014
Hall Of Fame Inductees
recognized in the middle 60's as an outstanding saxophone and flute
player. He performed on saxophone with such jazz greats as Frank
Rosolino, Bill Watrous, Arturo Sandoval, Jack
Sheldon, Pete Christlieb and Louis Bellson.
studying 20th century composition at Long Beach State, Tom's
interests turned towards jazz composition and arranging. In addition
to motion picture and television assignments, the sought after
composer/arranger has worked with many outstanding jazz artists and
celebrities including long time commissions with Steve
Allen (seven years) and Helen Reddy (five years). Among his television
credits are arranging and conducting the CBS Jackie
Gleason 30 year Reunion Special and The Bob
Newhart 20 Year Anniversary Show.
musical arrangements and those of Bob Florence, Roger
Newman and Alan Broadbent were featured at
the Kennedy Center in Washington DC in Portraits
of Jazz. This presentation was penned by famed composer Cy
Coleman and Academy Award winners Alan and Marilyn Bergman, with
whom Tom has worked for many years. In 1993, Tom conducted his
arrangements with Jack Sheldon at Carnegie Hall in New
York; his Big Band also performed his arrangements for two nights at
the Orange County Performing Arts Center with
the Pacific Symphony Orchestra.
musical arrangements define the contemporary big band sound and
have been performed at virtually every major jazz festival in the
world, including the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Montreaux
Jazz Festival and the Berkeley Jazz Festival, to name a few. His
charts have been played in just about any place or city that has a
big band. There are literally hundreds of CDs available where Tom's
arrangements can be heard from college to professional bands.
playing, arranging and sequencing skills have taken him all over the
world for concerts and clinics. As the Los Angeles
Times puts it, "His charts are crisp and swinging, are
finely crafted with superbly linked written passages that flow with
tremendous urgency and drive".
- Silverware: Dimitri Pagalidis (Mark
56 Records, deleted
- Another Place Setting: Dimitri
Pagalidis (Mark 56 Records, deleted)
- Slightly Off The Ground: Tom
Kubis Big Band (Seabreeze CDSB 109-2)
- At Last: Tom Kubis Big Band
- You Just Can't Have Enough
Christmas: Tom Kubis Big Band (Cexton CR21444)
- Reunion: Charles Rutherford Big
- Space Available: Bill Watrous Big
Band (Double-Time Records DTRCD 124)
- Fast Cars,Fascinating Women: Tom
Kubis Big Band (Seabreeze SB2079)
- Keep Swingin':Tom Kubis Big Band
(Seabreeze SB 2090)
- With A Lot Of Help From My Friends:
George Graham Big Band (Seabreeze 2089)
- A Perfect Match: Bohuslan Big Band
(Norway) Real Records RT 103-2
the band at L.A. City College in the late 1940's; that band became
it's first official college dance band. The Band in 1951/52 won the
Metronome Magazine's Contest for The Best Band and was rewarded by
being recorded with Capital Records. Bob was a master teacher and
considered Louie Armstrong his mentor. One of his writing credits
was for Buddy Berigan.
Bob was mild
mannered and very respected among his students and all the L.A. local
professional musicians .
the establishment of its Commercial Music curriculum in 1946, LA City
College became the first college in the nation to offer a degree in
important and talented musicians have studied at Los Angeles City
- David Alpert, musician/co-owner of
- Roy Ayers, jazz musician
- Chet Baker, jazz musician
- Robert Bradley, blues musician
- Irving Bush, jazz musician
- Eric Dolphy, jazz musician
- Jean Fenn, Metropolitan Opera
- Bob Florence, jazz
- Don Friedman, jazz pianist
- Herb Geller, jazz musician
- Jerry Goldsmith, composer, Academy
- Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame songwriters
- M.C. Hammer, R&B musician,
- Howard Leese, rock musician and
- George London, opera star/ Director
of the Kennedy Center
- Lebo M, composer
- Les McCann, jazz pianist/singer
- Charlie Mingus, jazz musician
- Lennie Niehaus, jazz musician
- Odetta, folk singer
- Tommy Oliver, jazz musician
- Hal Owen, jazz musician
- Dianne Reeves, jazz singer, Grammy®
- Robin Russell, drummer - member of
- Jack Sheldon, jazz musician
- Julius Wechter, musician and
- Leonard Slatkin, conductor
- Ed Thigpen, jazz musician
- Russ Titelman, music producer,
Grammy® recipient, songwriter
- John Williams, Academy
- La Monte Young, composer
former student and noted jazz composer, Bob Florence: "I
had been heading toward becoming a concert pianist," he said the
other day. "I had been playing piano since I was 4, and had been
performing concerts since age 7 or 8, though I also listened to jazz
and pop music."
enrolled at LA City College in need of additional units and
serendipitously enrolled in a class in orchestration and arranging
taught by Bob MacDonald, a noted Southern California music instructor
who later directed the jazz program at Valley College in Van Nuys. It
was through this experience that Florence discovered that he had an
affinity for jazz-based composition.
discovered that writing was really fun," Florence recalled.
"There was a band at L. A. C. C., and I could hear my music
played, and it was really rewarding. Later, I was able to learn by
trial and error, hearing a band play my charts at the musicians
union. So I just kept going."
Rory is a Professor Emeritus from
Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, where he just retired as the
Director of Jazz Studies.
Rory was the Director of Bands at
Homestead High School and Jazz Director at Santa Clara University for
He earned a B.A. from UCLA and an M.M.
from the University of Northern Colorado, and is in demand as an
adjudicator, clinician, honor band director, and guest artist
throughout the west. Rory recorded his first CD as a leader titled
"New York Sessions" featuring Michael Wolff - piano,
Wallace Roney - trumpet, John Patitucci - basses, and Victor Jones -
Rory has been active in holding the
following leadership positions during his career: NorCal
President of the CA Unit of IAJE for almost 10 years, CMEA State Jazz
Representative, NorCal Vice President of MACCC, CMEA Bay Section Area
V Representative, NorCal Representative of CAJ, and Music Department
Chair at Homestead HS and Diablo Valley College. He is currently the
Western States Representative of the Jazz Education Network.
He founded the Jazz Program at Homestead
HS in Cupertino, and built it up to be one of the top programs in
CA. The Jazz Ensemble earned many Unanimous Superior ratings at
CMEA Festivals, won many competitive festivals, and was selected six
times as one of the top 10 Ensembles to compete at the Monterey Jazz
Festival HS Festival. Most importantly, many of his former
students are now music teachers, professional musicians, and most
continue playing music.
While at Diablo
Valley College Rory also built the Jazz Studies Program to be one of
the best in California. All of his performing groups played concerts,
festivals, and achieved top notch reputations. The Night Jazz Band
has won the Reno and Pacific Coast Jazz Festival, toured China, and recorded
3 CD's. The first one featured Phil Woods, and the second was
Toshiko Akiyoshi. The latest release is entitled DVC Jazz Live at
Yoshi's and DVC featuring Bob Mintzer.
Rory has led DVC and
HHS Music tours to China, Paris, London, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico,
Disneyland and Disneyworld. He has presented many major jazz figures
as guest artists at all 3 schools he has taught. This list includes:
Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Louie Bellson, Bruce Forman, Bill
Watrous, Michael Wolff, Ed Shaughnessy, Wayne Bergeron, The Count
Basie Orchestra, Richie Cole, Don Menza, Gordon Goodwin, Bobby
Hutcherson and more.
Rory performs professionally on
saxophones, flutes and clarinet, and leads various groups including
Rory Snyder's Night Jazz Band. Appearances include the west coast's
premeire jazz club Yoshi's, Jupiter, the Monterey, San Jose &
Vallejo Jazz Festivals, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Gordon Biersch Brewery
Restaurants, UCLA, Cal State Stanislaus, and San Jose State
Rory has recorded five CD's with Dave
Eshelman's Jazz Garden Big Band, and two with the Mike Vax Jazz
Orchestra. He has played countless gigs and shows, and has appeared
as a sideman with Johnny Mathis, Bob Hope, George Burns, Jack Jones,
Eddie Fisher, Frankie Valli, Rosemary Clooney, The Temptations and
In retirement he is enjoying his
favorite jobs; as a sub DJ on KCSM 91.1 FM, the Bay Area's Jazz
Station, and director of his Night Jazz Band. Rory continues to play
his favorite sports (basketball and golf) hobbies, adjudicate, give
clinics, direct honor bands, and travel with his wife Linda, of 34
years. He is honored and humbled to be inducted to the CAJ Hall
of Fame with such a stellar group of great jazz educators.
Ed was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1946 and
attended the Albuquerque Public Schools
(graduated Highland HS, 1964) and the University of New Mexico
(B.M.E.1968 and M.M. 1973). His musical background began on piano
(age 5) and continued as a trumpet student (age 9). He was featured
as a church soloist throughout Junior High and High School on trumpet
and also sang in the church choir. At UNM, he began to learn other
musical instruments (Horn, Trombone, Bass, Euphonium, Synthesizer)
while working on his music education degree.
Performance opportunities in APS
included Band, Orchestra, Dance Band, Brass Ensemble and Piano. At
UNM he performed with Band, Orchestra, University Chorus, Brass
Quintet, Brass Choir, Jazz Ensemble and his own jazz groups and other
jazz ensembles (Ed Wolfe trio, Kingsman, Moonlighters, Al Baca
Quartet, Bill Paynter Jazz Quartet).
After graduation in 1968, Ed began his
music education career in Albuquerque while also continuing to
perform on trumpet and bass. During this time in addition to his
duties with APS, he founded and directed the Albuquerque Brass
Quintet and the Albuquerque Heights Rehearsal Jazz Band. He also did
occasional performances with the
Albuquerque Symphony Orchestra. It was during this eight years that
he was elected NAJE historian for the state of New Mexico as well as
NMMEA District 7 (Albuquerque) vice-president for music festivals. He
also served on the ACLOA (Light Opera) board and was musical
director on several shows, playing in the pit on others.
Ed founded the Hummingbird Music Camp
Jazz Week in 1975 with guest soloists and clinicians from APS as well
as Bobby Shew and Robert Miller (ASU) as head clinicians.
In 1977, Ed moved to California and began his 32 year tenure with the
Bonita Uniﬁed School District teaching at 9 of the 13 public schools in
the district. He became clinician for Jazz Ensembles and Concert
Bands throughout Southern California and his ensembles traveled
allover the US attending festivals and concert tours.
Literally hundreds of performances
during those 30 plus years earned high awards at SCSBOA festivals,
Command Performances, Heritage Festivals and Festival of the States
in San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Colorado
Springs, Tempe, Washington DC and Boston.
Ed's Jazz Ensembles have had a wide
variety of ﬁne guest soloists over his 40 year teaching career
including Clark Terry, Bobby Shew, Bob Miller, Arlen Asher, Bob
Brown, Bob Farley, Fenton Katz, Ray Pizzi, Jim Linahon, Matt
Catingub, Roger Burn and Shapes, Matt Politano, Tony Lujan, Dino
Soldo, Milton Nelson, Todd Kreutzer and
2AZZ1 (Craig and Mary
Ed most recently founded and continues
to directs the San Dimas Brass Ensembles (in which he plays trumpet,
horn and euphonium books) and the San Dimas Jazz Workshop Reading
Band (playing keyboard) featuring local and regional professional
players as well as many former jazz students who now play
Some of Ed's professional former
students include Tony Lujan, Milton Nelson, Roger Burn (deceased),
Dino Soldo, Matt Politano, Mark Tschinkel, Peter Adam, and many more.
There are also a large number of former students who have become
educators in a variety of ﬁelds.
Among the many awards and citations Ed
has received in the last forty ﬁve years are:
Outstanding Teacher" - 1973-1974, 2005-2006
Nationally Registered Music Educator" - 1991
Nationally Certiﬁed Music Educator" - 1991
Who in the West" - 1989-1990, 1992-1993
Who in Entertainment" - 1992-1993
Who in American Education" - 1992-1993,
Who in America" - 1997
Who Among America's Teachers" - 1996, 1998, 2000
Award" semi-ﬁnalist - 1994-1995
"Certiﬁcate of Appreciation" for presentation of
"Developing and Sustaining Elementary and Middle
School Jazz Programs" - 9/9/1995
Dimas Juvenile Justice Commission "Youth Service
Award" - 1984, 1993, 2001
"Teacher Hall of Fame" - 2006
"Award of Merit" - 2006
Festival Director's Club - 2007
Dimas Community Hero - 2007 SCSBOA
Teacher Award" - 2008 San Dimas
of the Year" - 2010
Ed is now retired from public music
education, but is still a clinician, arranger, composer, director and
performer of jazz and classical literature. He is also the Chairman
of the San Dimas Senior Citizen Commission and volunteers his musical
ensembles to perform for senior and city functions.
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Of The Year!
Justin Padilla, instrumental music teacher
at Oak Middle School,has been selected as the Teacher of the Year for the
Los Alamitos Unified School District. This highly prestigious honor is
given to only one Los Alamitos Unified School District teacher each year,
and it gives us great pleasure to give this recognition to Mr. Justin
Padilla. Justin has been teaching at Oak for nine years, and in that time
has built the instrumental music program from one fledgling band to a
comprehensive full-time program that includes multiple levels of jazz
bands, concert bands, and orchestras. Currently more than 200 students
are active participants in the award-winning ensembles at Oak.
Under Justin's leadership and guidance, the
jazz band was recently selected to be one of six middle school bands in
the country to participate in the Next Generation Jazz Festival, the
education branch of the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival. This is the
third consecutive year that Oak's jazz band was selected based on a blind
audition and selection process by some of the leading jazz artists and
educators. Additionally, Oak's concert bands and orchestras consistently
receive superior ratings at music festivals every spring.
Justin is visible throughout the District by
having his bands perform at school and community events, serving on
several committees, coordinating the district-wide band and orchestra festivals,
and working with the Los Alamitos Education Foundation (LAEF) fundraising
efforts to support all students in the district.
In addition to being a teacher-leader at
Oak, Justin accepts numerous requests for student teachers and for music
students from California State University Long Beach to observe his
classes. He is also asked to teach master classes in conducting and jazz
studies. He serves as the Middle School Representative for the California
Alliance for Jazz and as the Vice President of Jazz Education for the
Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA), the
premiere music education association in California.
"Mr. Padilla serves as an excellent
role model for students and is an advocate for all young people. He is an
extraordinary teacher, and we are fortunate to have someone of his
caliber working in Los Alamitos Unified," commented Superintendent,
Dr. Sherry Kropp.
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by Mike Vaccaro
Submited by Coralie Prince
In this hectic
world we live in I would like to give you just a couple of thoughts that
might improve your playing. Let's talk about SILENCE.
It has been said that "music is a picture
painted on a canvas of silence." That is not always true these
days, but is desirable for those going to a concert hall, or a chamber
music setting, or at a jazz concert whether in a club or on the concert
As a musician, silence is really important too. I
once asked a trumpet player on a recording session why he never warmed
up. He said, " I do it at home so as not to bother anyone else, and
if I need to play a few notes just to make sure everything is working, I
use a mute." You can imagine, and I am sure you have experienced,
16-80 musicians "warming up" at full volume so you can't even
The professional motto has pretty much always been
"be plenty early, sit down, and shut up." While sounding very
nasty, the general idea in any money-making situation, is that there are
other people around who need to be considered; the sound person, the
stage crew, other musicians, a featured act or any other position you can
think of. Each has a job to do and constant blowing by musicians just
before a job is insensitive and unnecessary. It is best to keep the ego
at home and save your best playing for the performance, and not the warm
The same goes for practicing. To take the instrument
out of the case and start playing your fastest and best licks helps no
one, especially you. It is best to start practicing with a minute or two
of silence after the instrument is put together, just to get all the
thoughts of the day out of your head. Then you really have a chance of
listening to the first note you play. As you warm up or start to
practice, try starting from that silence (mental as well as physical).
Good times for using this silence are when practicing is not going so
well, or if you need to think how you want to play a phrase, or even if
you are a little too tired from practicing, and need a rest.
The bottom line is that we just don't leave enough
time for silence in music and in our lives. So what happens? We storm
through life, never really looking closely at anything, because we are
trained to stay active. Only the act of little or no action gives us a
chance to really observe. In other words, when we turn off our internal
dialog and let our unconscious mind do its work unimpeded, we have a
better chance of success.
especially true with jazz improvisation when you need the ability to
listen while playing; this is paramount in keeping a cohesive, relevant
solo going to its end by relating to the sounds around you. It is
very difficult to talk and listen at the same time. If we can avoid doing
this, we learn more about the other person as well as ourselves.
Take a moment to think how silence can help you in
your life. If you would like to sign on to my mailing list you can
receive these types of messages on a rather haphazard schedule. Just go
to the sax and clarinet mouthpiece website below to sign on.
Good luck to all
of you in your journey with and through the jazz idiom and through the
all the other music that is available to you. Listen !!
After all is said and done I have always
felt that when teaching an art form, you are accomplishing much more
than the obvious transmission of skills and expertise. There should
be a rationale and purpose for teaching that goes beyond the art
itself. The reality of the real world
situation is obvious: supply and demand are way out of balance for
artists of all types and always has been. We have many more good
musicians than needed and as far as truly gifted artists are
concerned though they may berare, they are also in abundance compared to
for them to display their skills. So what
benefits derive for a young person who immerses themselves in the
study of jazz but may not find an outlet to use it?
There are the by now well documented
benefits for the brain through the learning of music and the
accompanying positive attributes (Mozart effect, etc.) To me the
most important lesson learned in jazz playing is how to cooperate
and work within
a group situation while maintaining and
exploring individuality. The members of a jazz group have to work
together to achieve musical results but each musician eventually
gets a chance to assert their own will at one time or another with
all the others insupportive roles. This constant changing of position
some instruments than others) is very
dynamic and is a wonderful lesson in group interaction, something
that all people have to deal with in life.
Freedom of expression is a cliché but on an
individual level jazz reinforces the notion that what an individual
has to say is valid and meaningful, that (s)he has worked on the
subject and is ready to deliver it. The sense of validation an
aspiring musician gets when he hears back a solo and is acknowledged
by his peers or elders is something very special. The relaxed
atmosphere in the jazz community and surrounding environment means
that though praise may be verbally muted or referred to using slang,
it is deeply felt. Any person gets a real boost from this approval
and knows he has honestly earned it. Music does not lie.
Speaking about the casual and relaxed
feeling of the jazz world also translates to modesty and
understatement in general. Being popular, wealthy or whatever values
are bandied about in our culture have little place in the jazz
world. This is a rich
tradition built by real people from recent
history of whom legendary stories are still spoken. This reality
factor and lack of pretense gives the participants in jazz a real
grounding based on true human values. A dry sense of humor pervades
the jazz worldand understatement abounds.
Musicians involved in jazz
are generally private people whose only desire is to play this
very deep music knowing that material rewards are few and
far between. To me this wonderful and rare trait of humility is
widely common among jazz musicians by and large. Playing jazz
combines several qualities: instinct, honesty, confidence,
experience, trust, imagination and a positive attitude. No matter
what walk of life one enters in the future these are qualities that
will serve any human being well.
The saying that "the pen is mightier
than the sword" is applicable to how I feel about teaching. To
my mind, though this may appear to be an extreme and categorical
judgment, unless an individual is an innovator who changes the
history of an art form, one's influence as a teacher, be it formal
or not is more powerful than the playing of the music itself. It is
important and noble work.
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featuring trombonist / arranger,
What Do I Play If The Chart Says "Latin"?
submitted by Rita Zigas-Brown
WHAT DO I PLAY IF THE
CHART SAYS "LATIN"?
We've all been there before; you take out
one of those brand new charts you've just bought and the style marking
says "Latin" or even worse "light Latin". You
glance over at the drummer and he or she informs you they have nothing
but slashes, so you naturally assume a bossa nova or a samba. You
start the chart and you notice there's a lot of syncopation going on and
a lot of the figures don't sound like Stan Getz's version of "Girl
From Ipanema". So you ask yourself, "are we playing the
wrong rhythm?" Sadly, you probably are.
Over the years, the "Latin" style
has been assumed to be some type of Brazilian rhythm, in part because of
the bossa nova craze Mr. Getz brought to the U.S. However, just as
there are many Latin countries, there are many Latin rhythms. Let's
take for example, Cuba. This country has brought us (in no
particular order): mambo, cha cha, son, guaracha, songo, bolero,
mozambique, afro, afrocuban, and many other smaller variations that are
so rare there is no way we would know how to play them. But, thanks
to several famous Latinos such as Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, etc. we have
heard and listened to mambos and cha chas many times, even though we
couldn't tell who played what. It is with this in mind that I
believe a little bit of education goes a long way to better prepare
students in music, as the real world is not just classical and jazz;
there is rock, funk, pop, rap, etc. and of course, Latin music.
Let's start by asking yourself how many of
these Latin rhythms do you really know? Is the bass line on the
score a "tumbao" or a bossa nova rhythm? Most composers
or arrangers will write a particular tumbao, or bass line that they feel
best fits the chart. Unfortunately, not all of these writers are
familiar with what the bass player has to play in a mambo or a cha cha
cha, so they tend to take a wild guess. Look at the part; is it
anticipating the chord in the next bar? If it is, it's
a pretty good bet it's a mambo or even a cha cha. A samba or bossa
bass line almost always plays on the beginning of the chord.
Next, the piano part; is there a specific "guajeo" or
"montuno" written? A safe bet is if you see the "Oye
Como Va" riff written in the piano part that it tends to signal
a cha cha. When a piano part has a lot of written chord voicings,
most likely you're dealing with a Brazilian chart, as they tend to be
more harmonic in nature.
If you'd like to listen to more tumbaos or
guajeos, pick up some records. Tito Puente is always great, as well as
Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Poncho Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri, etc. You
can also check out some older styles; Tito Rodriguez and Machito are
Now, for the drums and percussion: as simple
as this may sound, learning the difference between a mambo (fast) and a
cha cha (slow) already has you ahead of the game. Knowing the
particular instrumentation that goes along with these rhythms is even
better; for example, the mambo would include timbales, congas,
bongo, cowbell and the cha cha would include timbales, congas, guiro, and
cha cha bell. Another dead giveaway is if there is a percussion
part with the words "campana" (cowbell), "cascara" (on
the shell: the timbales player will play the sides of the drums) or of
course "claves". If you see "pandeiro" or
"tamborim" that's a dead giveaway it's a Brazilian tune.
Now, It doesn't mean you have to go out and buy timbales, congas,
pandeiros, etc, but just as you took the clarinet and trumpet classes in
college, learning a little bit of these instruments goes a long way. To
even be better prepared, you can pick up a pair of sticks and try beating
a few syncopations on the timbales! This can be rather therapeutic after
a long rehearsal week!
To be clear, the mambo, cha cha, bossa and
samba are not the only Latin rhythms, but they are the most popular.
What other rhythms are popular? The Dominican Republic has the
merengue, Colombia has the cumbia, Puerto Rico has the bomba and the
plena, Spain has flamenco, and so on and so forth. Many of these
could be applied to many charts and tunes, and they would all sound
wonderful, but it all comes down to be a matter of taste.
So, how would you pick a rhythm for a tune?
You should first look at the melody; a lot of times the melody
itself will dictate where it wants to go. Take for instance, Miles
Davis's tune "Four". All of the syncopations and accents
on the and of 2 and 4 want to lean towards a mambo. Bop tunes
really lend themselves well to mambos because of their accents and
upbeats, which is very much in the mambo vein. A tune like Shiny
Stockings can be a little more difficult, because it is a mellow tune and
at the same time it has some really cool accents. This is where a
matter of taste is important: some people will like a cha cha rhythm
which is closer to the medium swing tempo Shiny Stockings was recorded
in, or some people will like a mambo because of the accents and syncopations
of the tune. Your choice!
The question is now, how do you get your
students to learn these styles? For starters, YouTube is an excellent
tool; again, videos of Puente, Palmieri, and Sanchez, are great.
Rebecca Mauleon also has some excellent books dealing with more of
the rhythms of Cuba and Puerto Rico, like mambo, cha cha cha
and "salsa" ( which is actually a term coined in New York
in the 70's to define the pool of so many cultures being mixed in the
music being made). "The Salsa Guidebook", "101
Montunos" and "The Latin Real Book" have enormous
amounts of information. As far as the more authentic Brazilian
rhythms, records by Brazilians Joao Gilberto, Gilberto Gil, Milton
Nascimiento, Caetano Veloso are a great start.
Soloists? Listen to Chocolate
Armenteros (trumpet), Chombo Silva and Justo Almario (sax), Barry Rogers
and Jose Rodriguez (trombone), Charlie and Eddie Palmieri (piano).
A Latin solo with a more authentic feel makes use of a more
diatonic way of running the chords, and a more rhythmic approach to your
phrases. Of course, jazz is also a very important tool, but learn to mix
Try steering away from material which
has ambiguous style markings. Charts should say "mambo",
"songo", "merengue", "bossa nova", etc.,
not "Latin" or "light Latin". There's too much
room for interpretation. It will also be helpful to look at the
bass, piano and specially percussion and drum parts and look for written
parts, as opposed to slashes only. If there's a recording of the chart,
I strongly suggest you buy it and have the students listen to
In closing, take the time to listen and
compare rhythms on your free time. You will find that it makes it a
lot easier to choose grooves that might be more appropriate to a
particular chart. Also, why not be adventurous? In
my experience, most competitive jazz festivals always require a
"Latin" tune. Why not a songo, or a cha cha, or even
a plena? Have some fun with your students in learning
new rhythms, which will in the long run benefit them a lot
more than you think. Remember, there are plenty of wonderful
choices out there, not just a bossa nova or a samba!
Francisco Torres is a
trombonist, bass trombonist, composer, arranger and clinician who hails
from the state of Sonora, Mexico but now calls Los Angeles, California
his home. Francisco is equally talented in the following styles:
jazz, classical, latin, funk, reggae, ska, and studio work. He is the
trombonist and musical director for the Grammy-Award winning Poncho
Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, as well as a member of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat
Band. Francisco has in recent years produced and arranged for Poncho's
albums garnering several Grammy nominations, as well as developing a
small reputation for Latin Jazz arranging. He has performed with Latin
greats Cachao, Celia Cruz, Arturo Sandoval, Spanish Harlem Orchestra,
Gilberto Santa Rosa and Victor Manuelle, and can be heard on records by
Michael Buble, Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, Spoon, and Los Lobos.
As a jazz trombonist he
has performed with Joey Defrancesco, Terence Blanchard, Natalie Cole,
Nicholas Payton, Clare Fischer, Bill Holman and many others. Television
credits include Saturday Night Live, Dancing With The Stars, America's
Got Talent, The Latin Grammys', the ALMA Awards, The Late Late Show with
Craig Ferguson and he can be heard in the soundtracks of
"Confessions Of A Shopaholic", "Charlie St. Cloud"
and "Dance With Me".
As a Yamaha endorser,
Francisco maintains a busy touring and clinic schedule, while fitting in
studio work when at home. He credits jazz trombone greats Carl Fontana,
Frank Rosolino, Andy Martin, and Hal Crook, as well as Latin greats Barry
Rogers, Generoso Jimenez, and Leopoldo Pineda as influences. In
Francisco's eyes there is only music, not styles. Ever a perfectionist,
he strives to give each and every performance what it requires, in any
genre. He is a firm believer that you must honor the music.
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