The Real Latin Book Review

Anyone who has been following my blog for awhile knows that I can be a bit of a nut when it comes to Real Books.  I love getting new tunes that I have never played and trying them out on gigs.  Sometimes when I do a duo gig for a cocktail hour the piano player and I will take on the challenge of playing all tunes we don’t know.  I’ll bring the sheet music and we will just sight read them on the gig.  I have discovered some great tunes this way and it makes the gig more fun and challenging!

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I recently heard that Hal Leonard had a new Real Book called “The Real Latin Book” and I had to check it out!  I have loved playing latin music since back in the 90’s when I used to sit in on a weekly gig in Allston MA with a Brazilian band.  I used to love the Brazilian music, feel and chord changes.   The changes were just as hip as jazz changes but the feel was so different!   I remember taking some ripping solos using all my same jazz chops but to the latin grooves and I loved it.  The other memory from those gigs was how passionate the Latin crowd was.  The club was always packed and people would be dancing,clapping and screaming whenever the bands energy took off. I remember taking solos and the audience would get so pumped.

The Real Latin Book has 576 pages of very cool Latin tunes.  If you don’t play much Latin music some of the tempo markings  and feels might be a mystery to you……bolero, rumba, pasodoble, ranchera, mambo, guaracha, cumbia, mercumbe, etc……..   I don’t know what half of these words mean but I do know great melodies when I hear them!   I’ve had a lot of fun playing through the Real Latin Book and playing the different melodies  (I’ll leave the specific of the feel to the latin drummers out there……….)

I’ve been going through the book and marking my favorite tunes to add to my Steve’s Ultimate Real Book that I talked about creating on another blog post.  Usually what I do, is bring the tunes I like to a gig and try them out live.  If they sound as great as I thought they did at home then I add them to my own Real Book for permanent placement in my book.

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The Real Latin Book does have a number of the classic Latin tunes within it’s pages as you would expect from a descent Real Book on Latin tunes.  A few of them that you probably already know are Begin the Beguine, Black Orchid, Chitlins Con Carne, Desafinado, Triste, Gentle Rain,  The Girl From Ipanema,  Meditation, etc……….Many of these are in The Real Book Volume 1 but you know that they would also have to be included in any book that calls itself “The Real Latin Book”.   It even has some more popular tunes like La Bamba and Evil Ways in it.

The book is also filled with many tunes that I have never played nor heard of before. (That’s why I got it……) Like Compadre Pedro Juan, Contigo Aprendi, Con Tu Amor, Cuando vivas Conmigo, etc…………(I knew I should have taken Spanish instead of French in High School…………)

As always, Hal Leonard has done a great job with the production of this book.  The tunes are written in the typical easy to read “Real Book style” and are spaced out to two pages when needed to make them easy to read and not all cluttered on one page.

If you are interested in adding more Latin tunes to your repertoire check out the Real Latin Book!  You can order it at

If you have the book let me know what you think in the comments down below. (If you can give me a heads up on the hippest Latin tunes in there I would appreciate it also………)   Thanks,   Steve


Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site

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