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I'm in the process of using a midi sequencer to provide me with simple background (drums, bass line, bare minimum piano harmony) to practice improvising on Spain (Chick Corea). From listening to a number of recordings in this latin jazz style, it seems to be common for the bass player to anticipate the chord changes by playing the root of the chord of the next measure on the last beat of the current measure, like:

latin bass line on GM7 / F#7

Two closely related question:

  • should the piano part behave in a similar fashion and anticipate the F#7 on the last beat of bar 2?

  • should the soloist do the same?

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I've started a discussion about the latin-jazz tag on meta. I'd greatly appreciate your input. – luser droog May 20 '12 at 21:37
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The bass line you describe is a typical son salsa bass line - the tumbao rhythm.
To stay in the salsa idiom you should let the piano play salsa piano which I believe commonly anticipates the next chord just like the bass, yes. Actually I think it's not an anticipation but rather where the next chord or "bar" starts in salsa, but it would look like a mess notating it that way in traditional music notation. (You'll have to google 'salsa piano' to learn more - or if someone here can guide you in salsa piano. However since Spain is a latin-jazz tune rather than a pure salsa tune I think that the piano style can be freer.)

Salsa is built around the clave rhythm rather than western traditionally accented 1-2-3-4. So your drums should probably have elements of the clave in it (as well as playing the tumbao for the bass drum together with the bass).

In regards to soloing you are, obviously, free to do whatever you like, but incorporating elements of salsa - in terms of playing in relation to the clave and tumbao and thus "anticipating" the next chord - will get you to sound more in the game.

So, my answers are yes and yes.
However I am in no way a latin jazz, or salsa, theory expert.

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I concur--in general you can anticipate the next chord change in jazz whenever the note is held into the following measure. This is commonly done on the upbeat of 4 (syncopated) in other jazz styles. – NReilingh May 19 '12 at 14:51

The piano figure in salsa/latin jazz is called a 'montuno' and it does share some of the characteristics of the bass tumbao but it is rhythmically different. However, the piano montuno and bass tumbao work together with the clave and percussion to create the overall sound - to learn more about this I'd recommend the excellent Salsa Guidebook by Rebeca Mauleon. If you just want to create music that has a generally latin feel then you may not need to worry about the detail too much. But if you'd like the music to sound more authentic then getting these elements right (particularly the rhythms) is essential (and great fun, too!)

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It depends. Chick Corea's rendition was a fusion between bebop harmonization and melodies, and Latin rhythms. If you listen to the track on Light As a Feather, you will see what I mean. Particularly, if you listen to his comping, you'll notice it's not a regular vamp, even though it all fits to that clave pattern.

As far as harmony goes, whether the other instruments should anticipate the new chord like the bass line does, depends on the style you're trying to acheive. In jazz, if I were comping on the piano in corea style, if I hit a jab on that last, beat, i think i would usually but not always stab a voicing of the new chord, but maybe not. It depends. I might be in the middle of a solo on keys and doing a bit of harmonic reinterpretation that fits the lead and the bass line, in which case all bets are off.

But to start out, yes, it makes sense to anticipate the chord change if it's a Latin rhythm and the bass is doing it.

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