Pat Blythe – All That Jazz – Part V

I’m going to start with a quote from Encyclopedia Britannica. “Most early classical composers (such as Aaron Copland, John Alden Carpenter—and even Igor Stravinsky, who became smitten with jazz) were drawn to its (jazzes) instrumental sounds and timbres, the unusual effects and inflections of jazz playing (brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends, and stringless ensembles), and its syncopations, completely ignoring, or at least under appreciating, the extemporized aspects of jazz. Indeed, the sounds that jazz musicians make on their instruments—the way they attack, inflect, release, embellish, and colour notes—characterize jazz playing to such an extent that if a classical piece were played by jazz musicians in their idiomatic phrasings, it would in all likelihood be called jazz.

I love jazz music in all its forms and colours, even the pieces that sound like somebody tossed every instrument into an a huge tube, jumbled them altogether, and they came tumbling out the other end in what seems a cacophony of noise, but each is actually singing its own song in answer to, and with, the others. “….one important aspect of jazz clearly does distinguish it from other traditional musical areas, especially from classical music: the jazz performer is primarily or wholly a creative, improvising composer—his own composer, as it were—whereas in classical music the performer typically expresses and interprets someone else’s composition.” Encyclopedia Britannica

Jazz in the 1960s

The progression of one “type” of jazz to another is not exactly a straight line. There were so many outside influences adding to, and layering the sounds of jazz, it’s sometimes confusing to follow where one style ends and another begins. From Dixieland to swing; from classical to cool jazz; from modal to fusion, and everything in between, I’ve been attempting to create a step-by-step history which is becoming more and more challenging. Jazz is fluid and ever-changing, absorbing, shifting, altering, casting out and taking in. It almost writes itself.

Jazz music segued from the 1950s into the early 1960s, retaining its status quo. However, that was about to change. The 1960s were a turbulent decade. There was the war in Vietnam; the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the civil rights movement. Technology was beginning to play a key role in our lives. A man walked on the moon; Telstar, the first commercial satellite was launched; the transistor radio became more portable, and we moved rather seamlessly from cassette tapes (1963) to eight tracks (1965). People no longer had to rely on public radio for their music. With that came an abundance of choice.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, 1964

A huge upheaval in music was about to follow, a direct reflection of the times and a new generation’s state of mind. The Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan and rock ‘n’ roll was quickly dominating the musical landscape. Jazz music began to struggle. As televisions appeared in the living rooms of America, it became the prevailing form of entertainment. Jazz clubs began closing, putting many musicians out of work. Audiences didn’t need to leave their couch, and when they did, they could take their portable radios to the beach, or pop in that 8-track for the ride. Jazz was experiencing both a commercial and artistic crisis.

During this time however, some of the best jazz music was recorded and released, much of it becoming benchmarks in the history of jazz. The diversity and quantity was considerable.

Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz was released in 1960. Saxophonist John Coltrane released his milestone work, A Love Supreme, in 1961. Eric Dolphy (with Freddie Hubbard, Tony Williams, Richard Davis and Bobby Hutcherson) released Out to Lunch in 1964. Herbie Hancock released Maiden Voyage in 1965. As the 60s progressed, a few jazz artists began to listen more closely to the rhythms of rock ‘n’ roll, beginning to experiment with the new sounds and beats, adding elements of rock to jazz music. Then, in 1969, came the groundbreaking recording Bitches Brew, by Miles Davis.

Latin Jazz

“The modern jazz of the 1960s was a crystallization of so many streams in the music.” (Mosaic Records)

There are two main streams of what’s called “Latin Jazz” — Afro-Cuban jazz and Brazilian jazz. Latin jazz combined the rhythms from Africa and Latin American cultures. Instruments such as the conga, timbale, and claves were added to the classical and jazz harmonies created on the piano or double bass.  

Afro-Cuban jazz “mixes clave-based rhythms with jazz harmonies and techniques of improvisation.”  Musicians Mario Bauzá and Frank (Machito) Grillo and their band Machito and his Afro-Cubans introduced the music to New York City in the early 1940s. “The consensus among musicians and musicologists is that the first jazz piece to be based in-clave was “Tanga” (1943) composed by Cuban-born Bauzá and recorded by Machito and his Afro-Cubans.”Tanga” began humbly as a spontaneous descarga (Cuban jam session) with jazz solos superimposed on top.” Bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (influenced by Tito Puente and Xavier Cugat) and percussionist Chano Pozo took it one step further, introducing Afro-Cuban rhythms into the East Coast Jazz scene. Some of these combinations were referred to a “Cubop” for Cuban bebop. The short-lived partnership of Gillespie and Pozo “produced some of the most enduring Afro-Cuban jazz standards” to date.

Brazilian jazz’s rise to popularity began in the 1960s and Brazilians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim are considered the pioneers. It was Charlie Byrd, after returning from South America, who brought back with him the sounds of Brazil, and the bossa nova recording of Gilberto and Jobim. He then invited Stan Getz to listen to the recordings. Jazz-Samba became the name of album, and also describes the Byrd/Getz adaptations of bossa nova compositions into the jazz dialect. The seven-track LP, recorded in four hours, introduced bossa nova into mainstream North America. Getz’s later collaboration with Jobim produced the hit song The Girl from Ipanema. The boss nova style has retained a lasting influence around the world right up to the present. A side note….Charlie Byrd was knighted by the Brazilian government as a Knight of the Rio Branco for his role in bringing attention to Brazilian music.


The meaning…..key, clef, code or keystone in Spanish. Clave is a rhythmic pattern used in a variety of genres including conga, son, mambo, salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz. The origins of the clave pattern can be traced back to sub-Saharan African music traditions. Also found in Haitian Vodou drumming and candombe (Afro-Uruguayan music), clave is used in North American popular music as a “form of rhythmic decoration”. The clave is the heartbeat that inspires the spirit of reggae and dancehall (Jamaica), and reggaetón (Panama) music. The two most used clave patterns in Afro-Cuban music are known as son clave and the rumba clave.

Clave is also an instrument, comprised of two thick, hardwood “sticks”. When tapped together they make a sharp, hollow, clicking-like sound. One stick rests in one hand, with a slight space between the clave and the palm, allowing the clave to resonate and produce its distinctive sound. The other stick is held in the opposite hand and is used to strike the “resting” stick. This is the traditional way to play the claves. The clave rhythm can also be played on congas, djembes and other hand percussion. 

Clave playing

There are three main branches of “clave theory”. The first branch comes from Cuban popular music; the second branch comes from ethnomusicologial studies of sub-Saharan African rhythms; the third branch comes from the United States 3-2/2-3 clave concept and terminology, which stems from the fusion of Cuban rhythms and New York City jazz. It’s only in the past twenty years the three branches of clave theory have started to reconcile their shared and conflicting concepts. Cuban-based music is largely responsible for the rudimentary understanding musicians have today of clave.

A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

Maiden Voyage – Herbie Hancock

Out to Lunch – Eric Dolphy

El Manicero – Mario Bauza & His Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra

Desafinado – Stan Getz and João Gilberto

Desafinado – Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd Sextet

E Luxo So – Stan Getz

Manteca – Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo

The Girl from Ipanema – Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz

Jazz is one of the most challenging and complex genres of music I’ve written about. Understanding all the various detours and nuances doesn’t come easily. I’ve grown to believe jazz music is an intrinsic part of the jazz musician. It’s a special kind of “feel”, and all those notes, beats and sounds come as naturally as breathing.  We’re only up to the 70s but one of my favourite periods in jazz is coming up. I may not understand it all, but my ears know what I like.



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.


“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto.


Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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