THE JOURNEY OF A RHYTHM
As we have seen, the development of Jazz was aided by influences from many different cultures and types of music. The different vocal inflections from spirituals and work songs are concrete examples of influences on blues and jazz. Another major influence, although not as obvious, comes from Cuba (by way of Africa) and manifests itself rhythmically through what is known as clavé.
The term clavé can have several different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used:
1) the physical instruments known as clavés
2) the idea of clavé as a system of organization in music
3) the actual clavé rhythms
Literally translated, clavé means “key,” and like a keystone holds an arch together, clavé is the rhythmic key that holds Cuban music together. When all of the various rhythmic components in Cuban music fit together perfectly to form a groove, it is said to be “in clavé.”
This lesson focuses on a specific clavé pattern from Cuba known as the 3-2 Son Clavé (diagramed below). This is not the only clavé rhythm, but it is the one that can be most easily connected to American music. Through the study of this clavé rhythm and its origins, we will see how this rhythm manifests in Ragtime and early New Orleans Jazz.