Many of my favorite musicians are restless artists. They are explorers, always looking for something to add to what they do. And many are eventually drawn to the music of Latin America. There is a powerful rhythm and a strength which calls out to them. Occasionally, this proves to be a bad fit. But more often, the results sound like a celebration.
Joe Jackson: Cha Cha Loco
The music of Joe Jackson was originally identified as new wave. But he expanded from that base into jazz tinged pop for his album Body and Soul. And one of the flavors it comes in is Latin jazz. Cha Cha Loco is, as far as I know, Jackson’s only foray into Latin flavored music, but it’s a good one.
David Byrne: Loco de Amor
Playing Latin flavored music appears, at least to some, to be a way to “get crazy”. Both Jackson’s and David Byrne’s song here are “loco”. Loco de Amor originally was written for the movie Something Wild. The song was not included on the vinyl release of Rei Momo, but was added to the CD release. For Rei Momo, Byrne assembled a band of the best Latin musicians he could find in New York. Each song on the album presents a different style of Latin music. The album as a whole was the last time Byrne explored this music. It was certainly a celebration; Rei Momo means “king of the carnival”.
Kirsty MacColl: In These Shoes
Kirsty MacColl was the daughter of English folk singer Ewan MacColl, and her early work was tinged with folk, often featuring acoustic guitar prominently in the mix. But, for her album Tropical Brainstorm, MacColl decided to take her music in a new direction. She traveled to Cuba, and learned everything she could about the native music. Then, she came home and applied what she had learned, to wonderful effect. Sadly, we will never know where she would have taken this. MacColl was killed in a boating accident shortly after the release of Tropical Brainstorm.
Raul Malo: Every Little Thing About You
When The Mavericks originally came on the scene, the marketing hook focused on these two brothers from Cuba who could really play country. Their music was so good that it quickly became unnecessary to mention their Cuban roots. But, when Raul Malo made his first solo album, he wanted to reconnect with the music he grew up with. The results were both heartfelt and exciting. His subsequent solo work, as far as I know, has not gone any further with this. If anyone knows of any more of this wonderful music that Malo has done, let me know in the comments.
Tom Waits: Jockey Full of Bourbon
Of all the songs in this post, the Spanish accent in Jockey Full of Bourbon is the most subtle. But Tom Waits’ music, especially from early in his career, demonstrates a vast knowledge of jazz. And that would certainly include Latin jazz. The guys in Los Lobos could certainly hear the Spanish accent in this song; their cover makes it explicit.