Jazz Caliente: Focus On Flute

Jan 6, 2017

The flute may not be as prominent in jazz as trumpet or saxophone, but a well-played flute solo can really punch up a Latin jazz tune.

The flute came to Latin jazz through a number of paths.  Here are examples of the two main contributors:

From Cuban Charanga

Cubans have never been shy about adapting European instruments to their various musical styles.

The charanga developed in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century, replacing the brass-led dance bands called orquestas típicas.  Charanga opted for a somewhat sweeter sound, replacing the horn section with violins and flutes.  The intensity of charanga is due, in part, to the flutes playing in the higher registers, sometimes sounding more like piccolos.

Orquesta Aragon is Cuba's premiere charanga orchestra, originally formed in 1939 and still touring today.

From Brazilian Choro

Choro started as trio music in 19th-century Rio de Janeiro, when European dances like polkas and waltzes mixed with Afro-Brazilian rhythms.  The choro trio was typically a five-key wooden flute, a guitar and a cavaquinho (a small four-stringed instrument).  The wooden flute was eventually replaced by the shiny silver Boehm System flute that we all recognize today.  Clarinet is often used in place of or along with the flute.

Choro means "cry" or "lament," even though most choro music is pretty upbeat and peppy.  The flute carries the main melody of choro tunes and also has ample space for soloing.

We'll focus on flute this week on Saturday Jazz Caliente, with music from Dave Valentin and Mark Weinstein, Saturday at 5 p.m. on 88.5 knkx.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.