Afro-Cuban jazz is the earliest form of Latin jazz. It mixes Afro-Cuban clave-based rhythms with jazz harmonies and techniques of improvisation. Afro-Cuban jazz emerged in the early 1940s with the Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá and Frank Grillo "Machito" in the band Machito and his Afro-Cubans in New York City. In 1947, the collaborations of bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and percussionist Chano Pozo brought Afro-Cuban rhythms and instruments, such as the tumbadora and the bongo, into the East Coast jazz scene. Early combinations of jazz with Cuban music, such as "Manteca" and "Mangó Mangüé", were commonly referred to as "Cubop" for Cuban bebop.
During its first decades, the Afro-Cuban jazz movement was stronger in the United States than in Cuba.:59 Kenny Dorham, In the early 1970s, the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and later Irakere brought Afro-Cuban jazz into the Cuban music scene, influencing styles such as songo.
"Chékere-son" (1976) introduced a style of "Cubanized" bebop-flavored horn lines, that departed from
"Chékere-son" (1976) introduced a style of "Cubanized" bebop-flavored horn lines, that departed from the more "angular" guajeo-based lines typical of Cuban popular music.
The horn line style introduced in "Chékere-son" is heard today in Afro-Cuban jazz, and the contempor
The horn line style introduced in "Chékere-son" is heard today in Afro-Cuban jazz, and the contemporary popular dance genre known as timba. Another important Irakere contribution is their use of batá and other Afro-Cuban folkloric drums. "Bacalao con pan" is the first song recorded by Irakere to use batá. The tune combines the folkloric drums, jazzy dance music, and distorted electric guitar with wah-wah pedal.
According to Raúl A. Fernández, the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna members would not have been allowed by the orquesta to record the unconventional song. The musicians travelled to Santiago to record it. "Somehow the tune made it from Santiago to radio stations in Havana where it became a hit; Irakere was formally organized a little bit later".
Several of the founding members did not always appreciate Irakere's fusion of jazz and Afro-Cuban elements. They saw the Cuban folk elements as a type of nationalistic "fig leaf", cover for their true love—jazz. They were obsessed with jazz. Cuba's Ministry of Culture is said to have viewed jazz as the music of "imperialist America." Pablo Menéndez, founder of Mezcla, recalls: "Irakere were jazz musicians who played stuff like 'Bacalao con pan' with a bit of a tongue in cheek attitude—'for the masses.' I remember Paquito d'Rivera thought it was pretty funny stuff (as opposed to 'serious' stuff)" (2011: web). In spite of the ambivalence by some members towards Irakere's Afro-Cuban folkloric/jazz fusion, their experiments changed Cuban popular music, Latin jazz, and salsa.
Another important Cuban jazz musician is pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, whose innovative jazz guajeos revolutionized Cuban-style piano in the 1980s. Like the musicians of his generation who founded the timba era, Rubalcaba is a product of the Cuban music education system. He studied both piano and drums. Rubalcaba began his classical musical training at Manuel Saumell Conservatory at age 9, where he had to choose piano; he moved up to "middle-school" at Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, and finally earned his degree in music composition from Havana's Institute of Fine Arts in 1983. By that time he was already playing in clubs and music halls in Havana.
Many Cuban jazz bands, such as the saxophonist Tony Martinez's group, perform at a level few non-Cubans can match rhythmically. The clave matrix offers infinite possibilities for rhythmic textures in jazz. The Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto in particular, has been a trailblazer in expanding the parameters of clave experimentation. Afro-Cuban singer Daymé Arocena has been described as a "cross between Celia Cruz and Aretha Franklin".
More than a half century ago, Mario Bauzá developed arranging in-clave to an art. Another name for clave is guide-pattern, and that is how Bauzá related to it. He taught Tito Puente, and Puente's arrangers learned from him.:248
The techniques were passed down from one generation to the next. Many educated Cuban musicians reject the idea of 3-2/2-3 clave. Dafnis Prieto and Alain Pérez reject the concept.The techniques were passed down from one generation to the next. Many educated Cuban musicians reject the idea of 3-2/2-3 clave. Dafnis Prieto and Alain Pérez reject the concept.:249 Many younger musicians reject the concept of "clave rules". Pérez states, "I just don't treat the clave as a study or a profound analysis conceived around where it overlaps and where it comes in. I didn't learn it in that way".
Bobby Sanabria laments the pervasiveness of this attitude in Cuba. "The lack of clave consciousness in Cuba is starting to be felt more and more where the rhythmic equilibrium established by the clave direction is being sacrificed due to lack of knowledge in how to work with it from an arranging standpoint by young arrangers especially in the timba movement":251 Perhaps Juan Formell, founder of Los Van Van, summed up this contemporary Cuban clave attitude best. "We Cubans like to think we have 'clave license'...and we don't feel obsessed about the clave as many others do".