Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Salsa Basics

Although I've played in a few "Latin" situations, I'm actually fairly ignorant about Latin music. I did play timbales, drum set, and later piano with a Baltimore based group called Rumba Club, and I did work with Don Byron's 6 musicians, which was Latin-tinged originals and featured the great conguero Milton Cardona.( I did also live in the same building as Eddie Palmieri in Queens, but that's another story. And that certainly doesn't make me know anything more about Latin music.) I also don't think "Latin" is really the most proper nomenclature. "Latin" could imply almost any music from the South American vicinity. "Afro-Cuban", "Afro-Caribbean," even "Salsa" is more appropriate. "Latin Jazz" will do just fine. In terms of the origins of the music, you have to remember that African slaves brought their rhythms to Cuba and other islands, and the rhythms blended with the music of the Spanish settlers. The son clave is derived from the 6/8 African clave. Here's a short video explaining:

We have a salsa band at Portland State University. David Valdez recently took over the ensemble from Farnell Newton. I worked with the group one day last week; it seems as though the two pianists in the group were having trouble with the montuno, which is the basic piano part for salsa music. I explained and demonstrated some things, and then one of the students made a video of a second run through of the explanation. Obviously, I didn't know about this video; otherwise, I would have had my hair, makeup, and wardrobe guy on the premises. Anyway, I hope that you'll find this to be informative and entertaining.

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