Spanish tinge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jelly Roll Morton

The Spanish tinge is an Afro-Latin rhythmic touch that spices up the more conventional 4
rhythms commonly used in jazz and pop music. The phrase is a quotation from Jelly Roll Morton. In his Library of Congress recordings, after referencing the influence of his own French Creole culture in his music, he noted the Spanish (read Cuban) presence:

Then we had Spanish people there. I heard a lot of Spanish tunes. I tried to play them in correct tempo, but I personally didn't believe they were perfected in the tempos. Now take the habanera "La Paloma", which I transformed in New Orleans style. You leave the left hand just the same. The difference comes in the right hand – in the syncopation, which gives it an entirely different color that really changes the color from red to blue. Now in one of my earliest tunes, "New Orleans Blues", you can notice the Spanish tinge. In fact, if you can't manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to get the right seasoning, I call it, for jazz.

What Morton called "Spanish" were the tresillo and habanera rhythms of the Cuban contradanza ("habanera"). Morton demonstrated the "tinge" to Alan Lomax in the 1938 Library of Congress recordings.[1] What is known in Latin music as the habanera rhythm is also known as the congo,[2] tango-congo,[3] and tango.[4]

Morton categorized his compositions in three groups: blues, stomps, and Spanish tinge, for those with habanera rhythms. Tunes with the "tinge" include "New Orleans Blues" (a.k.a. "New Orleans Joys"), "La Paloma", "The Crave", and "The Spanish Tinge". Morton also called attention to the habanera in "Saint Louis Blues" as one of the elements in the song's success.

\new RhythmicStaff {
   \clef percussion
   \time 2/4
   \repeat volta 2 { c8. c16 r8[ c] }

\new RhythmicStaff {
   \clef percussion
   \time 2/4
   \repeat volta 2 { c8. c16 c8[ c] }
Top: tresillo rhythm.[5][6] Bottom: habanera rhythm

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morton, “Jelly Roll” (1938: Library of Congress Recording) The Complete Recordings By Alan Lomax.
  2. ^ Manuel, Peter (2009: 69). Creolizing Contradance in the Caribbean. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  3. ^ Acosta, Leonardo (2003: 5). Cubano Be Cubano Bop; One Hundred Years of Jazz in Cuba. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books.
  4. ^ Mauleón (1999: 4)[incomplete short citation]
  5. ^ Garrett, Charles Hiroshi (2008). Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century, p. 54. ISBN 9780520254862. Shown in common time and then in cut time with tied sixteenth & eighth note rather than rest.
  6. ^ Sublette, Ned (2007). Cuba and Its Music, p. 134. ISBN 978-1-55652-632-9. Shown with tied sixteenth & eighth note rather than rest.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mr. Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and "Inventor of Jazz" by Alan Lomax. Jelly Roll's autobiography, largely drawn from Jelly Roll Morton the Complete Library of Congress Recording.
  • Richardson, Mark (October 18, 2011). "Tom Waits: The one-of-a-kind singer-songwriter on his new LP, Bad as Me". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 5, 2021. Q: "There's a song on the album that I like very much called "Back in the Crowd", and it's almost disarming in its simplicity. You've certainly had a lot of straightforward, stripped-down songs over the years, but what's the arrangement process like for you now?" Waits: "Well, that song was an attempt at some of the – you know what they call it – Spanish Tinge. It's actually a musical category, like "Under the Boardwalk" is Spanish Tinge. "It's Over" by Roy Orbison, Spanish Tinge. It was done in the 60s. You can still hear it, but most people don't even know that expression."