What Is Bossa Nova

Jazz is a musical mainstay enjoyed by people of all ages from all places; but what is bossa nova? This Latin style of jazz injects a fresh sounding invigoration to the music that also harkens back to another time your parents or grandparents might recall fondly. Interested in a musical genre you'll never remove from your jazz playlist? Get to know bossa nova style Latin jazz.

The new trend

Bossa nova is literally translated from the Portuguese as 'new trend." Interestingly, this new trend that dates back as far as the early 1950s feels as vibrant and fresh today as it did in the mid-20th century. Bossa nova has a classic jazz structural foundation that, at the same time, feels comfortable and familiar.

The birth of bossa nova

From the 1950s to the 1960s samba and jazz fused to form the lyrical melange known as bossa nova. As is often the case, the college students and young musicians picked up on the innovation and ran with it. Bossa nova is one of the newest inflections in jazz that can now boast being a vital member of the standard jazz repertoire of any jazz musician worth his or her salt. Artists such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto were prime movers in this musical innovation, and they set the American music scene on fire in the 1960s with songs like "The Girl From Ipanema."

What does bossa nova sound like?

Describing music on the page is a challenge; however if you can imagine a beach, the warmth of the sun and smell of coconuts and combine that image with the Rio de Janeiro-infused samba-minus the heavy percussion-you will be on the right track. Bossa nova is Latin jazz with strains of a clave rhythmic pattern running throughout.

What is the clave?

The clave, pronounced 'klah-vay,' is a Latin rhythmic pattern that is ubiquitous in Latin music. In Spanish, the term clave means "key," which is apt, since the clave is key to Latin music. The rhythm clave should not be confused with the instrument of the same name. The instrument is certainly useful in helping create the Latin beat, but it's the two-bar rhythmic pattern that denotes the bossa nova jazz style.

The Latin clave

Jazz is style of music that is so organic and freely evolving that new forms and styles precipitate out of the ether seemingly in parallel with the ever-changing nature of humanity. Latin jazz developed with a unique pattern called the clave rhythmic pattern. This rhythm is a pattern found in Afro-Cuban music like the rumba, conga, mambo, salsa and more. Afro-Brazilian music such as the bossa nova also heavily employs the clave rhythm, a pattern of rhythm rooted in sub-Saharan Africa.

In musical terms, the bossa nova clave is a two-bar pattern that consists of five beats, according to Rock Drumming Underground. The Latin clave is the backbone of just about every Latin jazz and bossa nova tune.

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