Latin-influenced jazz is characterized by Latin dance rhythms combined with jazz melodies and chord progressions. Latin influences began to enter mainstream American popular music in the 1930's. During the 1950's and 1960's these influences became particularly strong, with Latin dances such as the mambo, cha-cha-cha, samba, and bossa nova becoming extremely popular in the United States. Other Latin dances such as the salsa and merengue continue to be an influence today.
Latin music has its own unique sound. Eighth notes are played straight, not swung as in other style of jazz, but syncopation is still common. A wide variety of Latin percussion instruments also flavor the music. Congas are Afro-Cuban in origin, played with the palms of the hands and with the fingers. Bongos are also Afro-Cuban, but are higher-pitched and thinner in tone quality than congas. Other common instruments include timbales, claves, and cowbells.
Some bandleaders who infused a Latin element into their bands are Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton. Other musicians who incorporate Latin elements into their music include Brazilian drummer Airto Moreira, Peruvian percussionist Alex Acuña, Cuban trumpeter, pianist, composer and protegé of Dizzy Gillespie Arturo Sandoval, pianist Eddie Palmieri, percussionists Tito Puente and Poncho Sanchez, bandleader Mario Bauza, trombonist Steve Turré, and alto saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera.