There is a common, and really annoying, misconception that all "Latin" music (whatever that means) is felt in the same way. How many times have you been on a gig and heard someone say, "Is this swing or Latin?" This is a pretty ignorant approach. When we say "Latin", we're really referring to Latin America, which can mean anything from Cuba to Mexico to Brazil to Argentina. Certainly the music of these countries aren't all going to sound or feel the same. I suppose in a jazz setting, where we're often playing Americanized versions of these styles it's somewhat acceptable to generalize the feel a little bit, but if you really want to play the music from the aforementioned - or any other - Latin American countries it's important that you do your homework and figure out the feel.
So today I have a practice loop for you to help you get a handle on the Brazilian samba feel. This is a very unique feel that us gringoes often have a hard time executing. I've seen a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to notate this feel, and give it fancy names. For me, this sort of defeats the purpose. Did you spend hours trying to notate Art Blakey's feel? Of course not. You put on your head phones and played along until you FELT it. Learning the Brazilian feel is no different than learning to swing. The Brazilians even use the same term, swing, or suingue.
I found a video on YouTube of Mestre (meaning director) Odilon playing a basic samba swing feel on a caixa, which is a Brazilian snare drum. Mestre Odilon is one of the best known and respected bateria directors in Brazil. If anyone is going to swing hard, it's him. Take your favorite samba patterns and play along with this loop.
If you aren't very familiar with the rhythms of the samba, it's OK. Here's a little chart to get you started. These are some of the most common patterns that you're going to see in a jazz, or drumset, samba.
Now, granted, there are quite a few differences between the jazz samba and the batucada style of Mestre Odilon and the samba schools in Rio, but this will still most certainly help to develop your feel. Besides, the early greats who first developed the jazz samba, like Edison Machado, Milton Banana, Toninho Pinheiro, Paulinho Braga, and José Roberto Sarsano, were simply trying to capture the batucada feel on the drumset. Be sure to check out those players, as well as today's greats like Tutty Moreno, Marcio Bahia, Edu Ribeiro, and Kiko Freitas.
It's definitely also worth digging into the batucada style of samba, but that's a whole other beast in and of itself. I've written a series of articles on applying batucada patterns to the drumset, which I think/hope Modern Drummer is going to be printing periodically in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for that. In the mean time check out some of my other posts on samba, or Brasil. I've also got a few transcriptions in the works which will be posted here soon.