For many piano players learning to play Afro-Cuban music can be like walking into an impossible maze where the first beat of the bar is nowhere to be found and trying to play a properly syncopated montuno for more than 4 measures is like trying to ride the most crazed rodeo bull on the planet.


Matt Jenson has been playing in Salsa and Latin Jazz based bands for some 20 years now and teaching this Latin piano lab (at Berklee College of Music and at other locations) for 15 years. He didn’t grow up having a pair of maracca’s, clave’s or a set of conga’s etc., placed in his hands at the family get together where EVERYONE was jamming and dancing. Because learning to play Latin music was not presented in such an organic atmosphere where one absorbs it like water through the skin, Matt had to methodically deconstruct every nuance of the style in order to play it properly. He took the care to remember all of the steps he took and experiences he had on the band stand which allowed him to achieve a deep understanding and as a result this fantastic class was born!


In this class Matt clears the clouds away with a very concise and understandable description of how Salsa-based Latin music works with a focus on Salsa and Cha Cha Cha styles. You will learn how to play a montuno in both 2-3 and 3-2 clave directions. You will learn what rhythms to listen for in the percussion section that determine how your montuno will properly fall. You’ll even learn a basic Salsa and Cha Cha Cha dance step which is essential to understanding how to play this music properly. Playing montunos is a physically demanding activity that can lead to serious hand/arm injuries. Matt will give you technique tips to help avoid this. And finally he’ll show you stylized vocabulary for more advanced montuno playing and solo ideas for both Salsa based playing and Latin jazz playing.

Free lesson!

Learn to play Blue Bossa in 2-3 clave.

Here's Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa" played in a 2-3 clave direction. Track one below is a demo with the piano part and track two is the same track with the piano track muted for you to play along with.  Download the leadsheet here.

Blue Bossa 2-3 clave - with piano
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Blue Bossa - minus piano: play along
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Students at Jazz Camp West testifying!

Matt's conjunto Combo Sabroso playing Eddie Palmieri's "Chocolate Ice Cream."

Afro-Cuban study guide book cover

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