Latin Jazz

Naomi Kuhns

Tito Puente - Take Five


Latin Jazz has two subcategories, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian. Afro-Cuban includes salsa, merengue, songo, son, mambo, timba, bolero and charanga. Brazilian involves samba and bassa nova. Machito and Tito Puente were both big influences with this specific genre.


Latin Jazz originated in the 1940's. The song "Tanga" written by Mario Bauza in 1943 was thought by many to be the first song in Latin Jazz history. By the 1950's the Mambo, a beat for salsa music, had been introduced. Later, in the 1960's, Salsa music had taken over and Latin Jazz was being abandoned. Some thriving artists moved between the two genres to keep Latin Jazz alive.


Latin Jazz contains more of a straight rhythm than swung. Rhythms commonly heard in this genre of music include mambo, son and rumba. Improvisation is very common as well. Instruments used are the conga, timbale, guiro and claves. Tito Puente (pictured) and Ray Barretto were very influential in Latin Jazz.

Connection to Dance

Latin Jazz is said to be "...attractive to many listeners and unappealing to many dancers." Puente thought dance was a trademark of Latin Jazz. Barretto, on the other hand, thought dancing identified more with music like the Salsa, and not with Latin Jazz.

Latin Jazz Today

Chucho Valdes, Paquito D'Rivera, and Poncho Sanchez are some of today's popular Latin Jazz artists. The music is popular in the US, Cuba and other latino cultural areas. Latin Jazz still thrives today, and is said to be never ending.