From its birth in New Orleans to its heyday in New York, Jazz has been deeply influenced by Latino musicians, especially those playing Afro-Cuban rhythms. It's impossible to imagine Jazz without this Latin influence, or as Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton called it, the "Spanish tinge".
Latin Jazz emerged as a separate genre in the New York clubs of the 1940s, where orchestras like Machito & His Afro-Cubans held court. This new sound was built on an Afro-Cuban rhythmic core, but added Jazz arrangements and improvisation on top. It wasn't long before non-Latino Jazz musicians began paying attention, most notably Dizzy Gillespie. He liked the sound so much that he added Cuban conga player Chano Pozo to his band. Congas soon appeared in other Jazz bands, infusing their songs with the clave rhythms at the heart of Afro-Cuban music.
By the 1960s, Latin Jazz had become a multifaceted genre, including: vibraphonist Cal Tjader's cool sound from San Francisco; Tito Puente's hot dance music in New York; Stan Getz's Bossa Nova collaborations with Brazilians Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto; and New Yorker Eddie Palmieri's innovative trombone arrangements that hinted at the Salsa explosion of the 70s.
The tradition of playing Jazz melodies over Latin rhythms is very alive today, as Latin Jazz remains an essential part of the Jazz world.