Arranging the Latin Rhythm Section

Workshop by Mark Towns
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In the workshop, “Arranging the Latin Rhythm Section,” Mark Towns explains the basic fundamentals of the most common traditional Latin Rhythms, including:

  • Mambo
  • Bossa Nova
  • Cha Cha Cha
  • Cumbia
  • Merengue
  • Samba
  • Danzón
  • Güajira
  • Bolero
  • Güagüanco
  • Bomba
  • Tango


Discussion topics in 'Arranging The Latin Rhythm Section' include:

  • Basic Latin music terminology
  • Patterns for each rhythm section instrument and how they interact
  • Piano montunos
  • Jazz comping over Latin rhythms
  • Bass tumbaos
  • The guitar's role when playing with the piano vs. without the piano
  • The importance of the clave
  • Typical Salsa and Latin Jazz song structure
  • Typical Latin chord progressions and tags
  • Breaking down a piece of music into sections
  • Miscellaneous percussion instruments and their role

Mark Towns has been performing, composing, and arranging Latin music for over 35 years. A virtuoso performer in both the Latin and Jazz idioms on the Spanish and electric guitars, Cuban tresillo, Puerto Rican cuatro, Peruvian charango, and the bass, he’s performed with Latin legends Arturo Sandoval, Yomo Toro (from the Fania All-Stars), flutist Dave Valentin, Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes, Grammy winning arranger Oscar Hernandez, Brazilian percussion legend Airto Moreira, as well as jazz giants Larry Coryell, Hubert Laws, Pharoah Sanders, and Kirk Whalum, among others. In addition to having performed and recorded with various Salsa, Brazilian, and other Latin bands, Mark leads his own Latin Jazz Band and performs regularly in Los Angeles and Texas, as well as having recently performed in Italy, Hawaii, New York, Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica. Mark Towns has produced several Salsa and Latin Jazz CD’s by various artists, including his own critically acclaimed albums ‘Flamenco Jazz Latino’ with Hubert Laws and Kirk Whalum, and ‘Passion’ with Hubert Laws.

Mark Towns is also a record label owner (Salongo Records), a music publishing company owner (Selim Sound), a music journalist (L.A. Jazz Scene, Houston Press, All About Jazz L.A.) and is a Recording Academy voting member for the Grammys and the Latin Grammys.