Let’s talk about the bolero.
The bolero is the combination of emotions and harmonic concepts. For example, let’s look at a very well known bolero from José Antonio Méndez that is entitled “Como fué” (plays the piano)
Like any other style, we need to have a wide harmonic knowledge and a refined musical taste.
The bass plays in a very steady manner, usually in quarter notes or half notes, simply supporting the harmonic structure for each chord. The piano is the one that has to add the harmonic variety:
The bolero has a very strong link with the American ballad.
Let’s play a very traditional melody… (plays the piano)
If we played that same melody as a bolero, it would sound like this: (plays the piano)
If that melody was played as swing, it would go: (plays the piano)
If we played “Como fué” as a swing… (plays the piano)
What we’re doing is mixing bolero with jazz. The only thing we need to do is change the rhythmic feel.
If we have a swing feel between bass and drums, we get a jazz ballad.
If we add percussion, the tumbadora, and the bass changes while you play in quarter and half notes… and the percussion goes: (plays the piano y sing the percussion)…
That’s how the tumbadora sounds, excuse if I am not very precise at times, but it is a little difficult to play the piano and sing the tumbadora part at the same time. You get the idea right? It all depends on your particular preference of music, and the taste you apply when playing it…
I definitely think there’s a sentimental factor associated with bolero. It is like playing a slow blues or a romantic ballad.
The bolero performed with the ensemble in this DVD is a classic bolero, a jewel of the Cuban musical literature.
This bolero goes like this: (plays the piano)
We could play this same bolero, as a Latin jazz piece… (plays the piano in jazz rhythm)
To make it sound like Latin jazz we would give it a faster son rhythm, characterized by the cáscara on the timbales. We would add tumbadoras, and the bass would be played with much more movement, and thus we would achieve the Latin jazz feel.
We could also play this bolero in a straight-swing way, like this: (plays the piano)
By using the same harmony, and just changing the rhythmic structure, we get different versions and variations of the same bolero.