The clave feel may be playing in the drums, the piano, bass or sometimes spread between a couple instruments. Some tunes are very obvious and some glam the clave up, making it harder to find, but the feel is there if you know clave basics.
Modern salsa music is often without a "real" clave as well. In many cases the clave isn't actually played, or it's played at points and drops out for parts of the tune, even if the feel is there from beginning to end. Sometimes it's there, but it's very hard to hear in the overall mix because of the rich complexity of the percussion instruments.
In commercial tunes, it's everywhere but often not so obvious. Nobody would think of the tunes as "Latin", but the clave feel is just part of our music culture outside the "Latin" category. It's been happening for years and I could link to a hundred other tunes with this same concept.
My latest discovery is from MJB (Mary J Blige), a really catchy tune called "Good Love" from the CD "Stronger with Each Tear". (Side note: Another great tune named "I Am" from the same CD also has an obvious implied clave.)
Check it out below and you'll see the bass drum is playing an implied clave throughout this tune. The drums drop out at points, but the feel is still obviously clave influenced from beginning to end.
"Good Love (Ft T.I.)" by Mary J Blige (MJB)
This is a great groove tune with a ton of depth (have to love that bass line...); there isn't anything about this song I don't like! Love the horns (especially the 3rd phrase they play each time around), the drum and bass tracks, and her singing is so "on" the time.
After I had the song less than a week, iTunes told me I had listed 67 times. (I still can't totally nail the bass part every time, but I'll get it.) Over the first couple weeks I heard it a few hundred times. So many things to hear in the background.
For those of you who know about my "implied pulse" concept, note that the time (pulse) starts in the beginning and never stops, even though there are plenty of music breaks and partial breaks. (See "Related Articles" below for additional details.)
Let me know what you think.
(The question of the day: "Is the implied clave a 3-2 or 2-3?)
Related Articles:Musical Pulse: Explicit and Implicit (Part 1)
Musical Pulse: Explicit and Implicit (Part 2)
Clave: More Than Most People Want To Know
Clave and the Every Changing Salsa Dance
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils ...
- Louis Hector Berlioz