[Dixielandjazz] Evolution of "The Spanish Tinge"?

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 31 06:10:54 PST 2005

Is this the evolutionary story of "The Spanish Tinge? Not OKOM perhaps, but
MKOM for many of our Spanish and Latin American list mates. Arturo O'Farrill
is the son of the great Latin jazz musician/composer Chico O'Farrill who was
a friend and contemporary of Dizzy Gillespie.

May not even be "jazz" according to some "literati". One of my musician
friends here in Philadelphia thinks that there can be no such thing as
"Latin" Jazz, much less "Afro Latin Jazz. Of course he is a bit of a
reactionary, and very one eyed. :-) VBG

Steve Barbone


A Hybrid That Sings and Sometimes Swings - By BEN RATLIFF - NY Times

There are jazz singers, and Latin-music singers, but not nearly as many
singers who identify with the discipline known as Latin jazz. Between the
pillars of two strong vocal traditions, a singer will pull toward one rather
than maintaining an equal distance between them.

Anyway, Latin jazz makes its cross-cultural connections on the lower levels
of the music. It is Latin rhythm combined with jazz harmony, Latin
instrumentation combined with jazz big-band arrangement devices. Latin-jazz
singing is a secondary matter.

But a concert celebrating Latin-jazz singing can easily be constructed, and
a crowd bathed in the light of Latin swing won't be thinking taxonomic
thoughts like these.

Arturo O'Farrill, leader of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz
Orchestra, has thought about it all and at Rose Theater on Friday and
Saturday evening ran the 18-piece band through concerts called "A
Celebration of the Great Latin Jazz Vocalists." By the sound logic of the
program, there were singers for the great Latin-jazz orchestras of the
1940's and 50's who might as well count as Latin-jazz singers. And there
were, and continue to be, improvising singers in Latin popular music, known
as soneros. They improvise, as jazz musicians do, so why not count them?
Plus, there's the bolero-singing tradition of the Pan-Latin world. Apply
skilled Latin-jazz arrangers to those songs, and the possible repertory
increases exponentially.

Graciela, the singer for the great Machito orchestra from the 1940's to the
60's, was to have performed. But she was unable to, and that slinky, brassy
sound of midcentury New York, with Graciela's defiant attitude shining up
the surface, was instead represented by two younger singers, Claudia Acuña
and Adela Dalto. 

Ms. Acuña and Ms. Dalto really are Latin-jazz singers, of this particular
moment: they live in both histories, expanding their repertories beyond jazz
and Cuba and Puerto Rico to make reference to the rest of Latin America. Ms.
Acuña is from Chile, and in her own work she has considered South American
jazz, pop and folk music beside everything else. On Friday she sang some
songs by the Mexican pop-bolero balladeer Armando Manzanero (including an
elegant version of "Somos Novios") and some of the older Cuban repertory,
taking the dreamy, earnest melisma out of her alto voice, increasing its
huskiness and getting down to the business of artifice.

But the evening eventually became a kind of concerto for the marvelous
singer Herman Olivera, who kept appearing and reappearing and finally logged
far more minutes onstage than any other singer. Mr. Olivera, from Newark and
of Puerto Rican descent, has spent the last 30 years working in the sonero
tradition, singing with bands led by Eddie Palmieri and others, and he
projects an easy showmanship that puts on no airs.

When he sang boleros and mambos, from the old songbooks of Tito Rodriguez,
Beny More and others, he performed with a responsible directness,
articulating every syllable in his strong tenor. He danced through
instrumental breaks. And at the songs' high points, he improvised several
choruses at a stretch, repeating phrases for percussive effect and spinning
out rhymes of love and heartbreak. 

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