James Brown Jazz: "Tengo Tango"

     It is only fitting that a James Brown "Jazz" album has a song entitled "Tengo Tango." The connection between African-American music, Jazz, blues, and Latin music reaches as far back as Louis Gottschalk's Souvenir de Porto Rico and Jelly Roll Morton's New Orleans Blues. In fact, Morton argued for the integral relationship between the blues and the "Spanish tinge." In its early years, Jazz's identity was nearly inseparable from tango and the habanera dance crazes of American popular culture in the early twentieth century. W.C. Handy's tango inspired refrain in St. Louis Blues is a prime example.   

    Brown's Tengo Tango is a F blues that begins in earnest with a stately latin intro consisting of three quarter notes followed by eighth notes on the fourth beat. The opening rhythm of the head sounds like a short-hand rendering of the syncopated rhythm of Morton's New Orleans Joys which consists of two dotted quarter note rhythms followed by a quarter on the fourth beat. Brown's Tango rhythm omits the first dotted quarter and unties the remaining notes of the rhythm. The descending octave leap of the head brings to mind the descending octave gesture that opens Miles Davis' first solo on So What from his Kind of Blue album. The trumpet dominated chorus of Tengo Tango represents the simplicity of Miles Davis' Cool School explorations of both the blues and the Spanish tinge including All Blues, Blues for Pablo, Flamenco Sketches, and Sketches of Spain. Recorded in 1969, Tengo Tango has a spirit that qualifies it as a sequel of Brown's 1965 I Feel Good which is also known for its famous trumpet solo spot. The final measures of this 12 bar blues head features arpeggiations bridging F minor to F major via a F diminished triad. In its closing measures, there are long range, chromatically descending 6ths  formed between the outer voices--giving a subtle nod to the latin sound. The lush sounds of the saxophone solo is evocative of Cannonball Adderley. The trumpet solo is economical yet hard-hitting. The trumpet player often rocks a single note with all of the vigor of a one note samba. Meanwhile, the horn section comes back with the opening rhythm from the head with a slight variation: omitted dotted quarter followed by three eighths and a quarter.

    Brown's Tengo Tango is a learned funk essay solidly grounded in a proud heritage consisting of Jazz, blues, and Latin music.