In the liner notes to Ray Charles' collected country and western recordings, there is a section on how the popularity of bossa nova beats led him to come up with the more soul-accented version in his tunes, which he called "swinganova".

I lack the ear to pick this style apart, but find it pleasing. What exactly is swinganova, in terms of where beats are placed and chords or arpeggios stressed?

  • Could you supply a link to an example to listen to? – Ulf Åkerstedt Apr 24 '12 at 20:30
  • 3
    Is "swinganova" similar to this youtube.com/watch?v=71oTuy63EU0 ? Because, I only find John Scofield's music when I google "swinganova". I see he has some tutorials on youtube as well. – esmitex Nov 25 '12 at 0:34

If you're referring to Ray Charles Swingova style, this is really a 2-3 clave rhythm that's done with a slight swing in some cases, i.e. the way the horns riff over that clave rhythm.

I think what makes Ray unique here is the way that he swings the lead vocal over the 2-3 clave in the rhythm section as if the two are not really connected. It's subtly deceptive.

It's also worth noting, that if you consider this from a wider perspective, swingova was really a huge artistic risk considering where these songs had originated.

Blue Moon of Kentucky was a bluegrass waltz in the mid-40s, popularized by Elvis Presley as rockabilly in the mid-50s, and evolved into multi-cultural world music by Ray in the mid-60s. That's really when Afro-Cuban rhythms expanded onto the world stage and Ray was certainly a big part of popularizing that clave sound while staying true to his American roots.

Similarly, Baby Don't You Cry was a swing tune in the 40's that shows little resemblance to what Ray did with it in the 60s. That ability to bend a song to the artist's will is among the many reasons that Ray's music has universal appeal.

Great songs tend to defy categorization, but without Ray, it's unlikely these kinds of musical evolutions were even conceivable. There was probably no one else on earth who could have disconnected the lead vocal from the underlying rhythm section groove the way Ray did, and that's why he remains the Genius of Ray Charles.

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