The lining of jazz is laced with the nectarous Latin flavor everyone yearns for, even if they deny it. Though birthed in New Orleans, Louisiana, and known for its French Creole influence, its flow also embodies Afro-Caribbean rhythms. More specifically, Afro-Cuban beats enriched jazz’s essence since its rise.
Jelly Roll Morton, one of the most prominent figures of this genre and its first arranger, loved the Cuban inspiration. Consequently, he coined the term, “Spanish tinge,” to place emphasis on the presence Afro-Latin sounds.
“Now in one of my earliest tunes, “New Orleans Blues,” you can notice the Spanish tinge. In fact, if you can’t manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to get the right seasoning, I call it, for jazz,” Alan Lomax quoted Morton in his book, Mister Jelly Roll.
Even though the artists associated with this musical are all magical, we often forget about the Latinas who are using their voices to advance the genre.
However, there are quite a few Latinas in the jazz world making strides. And we all need to know their names. The following are some of them. Familiarize yourself with them and turn up to their songs as soon as you can.
Her journey into the world of jazz in an unconventional manner. She didn’t attend a musical institute as it’s been the custom. Instead, she started her jazz career in Chile.
“I grew up without really knowing names or styles,” she told NPR. “I was attracted to this music because it allowed me to improvise. Later, when I met people who were jazz lovers, they said, ‘Oh, you sing jazz.’”
Acuña has won the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, Latin American & Caribbean. She has also been nominated for Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz and Jazz Album as well as Independent Music Award for Best Song.
Born in São Paulo, Elias started out as a pianist and singer. Over the years, she adapted Afro influences into her craft, which in turn helped her create an extensive career in the jazz medium. Her Brazillian roots and sultry voice led her to sell over 2.2 million albums. She has launched 30 albums, which have not gone unnoticed. Elias is a multi-Grammy-winning artist and continues to make waves with her musical style.
Cuban artist, Haydée Milanés, entered the jazz universe through her father, Pablo Milanés. Her training couldn’t have been better considering her father is a highly-regarded composer, guitarist, and songwriter. However, she added her own twist to the jazz language. Her musical gene took her to delve into styles such as son, bolero, and filin (derived from the word “feeling”), which are influenced by American jazz.
Jazz has a way of squeezing each of its notes into your soul as though attempting to brush against the depths of your emotions. So, let’s not forget to uplift the Latinas in this genre, as their voices, too, can make us feel some type of way.