spanish harlem orchestra artist shareWalking the line between salsa and Latin Jazz is often a murky path, threatening a musician with many artistic pitfalls that may ultimately send their project into a fatal spin. Without extensive experience on both sides of the equation, musicians will lean aesthetically towards the stylistic norms of one genre, sacrificing the integrity of the other. When salsa becomes the priority, chord changes become simplified, vocals move into the foreground, improvisation includes a serious lack of risk, and commercial concerns influence decisions. With Latin Jazz at the front of the musicians’ mind, the rhythm becomes far less danceable, extended improvisations become hard to follow, and the form sometimes seems more academic than attainable. Finding the right mix between these two worlds isn’t impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy – it takes an experienced ear and a vast knowledge of both styles to construct a smart blend.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra has been towing the line between Latin Jazz and salsa with class and excellence for a number of years, keeping both bold traditions alive while pushing them into the future. The band’s musical integrity can largely be attributed to the leader, pianist Oscar Hernandez, who has worked extensively in both salsa and Latin Jazz for decades. He anchored the piano chair in Ray Barretto’s band, recording albums like Rican/Struction, he served as musical director and pianist for Rubén Blades on discs like Buscando América, broke new ground on Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayorquiño’s Concepts in Unity; that’s just a starting point of important musical milestones featuring Hernandez. While Hernandez may be the band’s core strength, some of the best musicians in Latin music round out the band. Saxophonist Mitch Frohman, a long time member of Tito Puente’s band, legendary salsa vocalist Ray De La Paz, Eddie Palmieri veterans conguero George Delgado and Doug Beavers,and many more powerhouse musicians fuel this group. As a result, the band’s repertoire includes original arrangements of classic songs, ground shaking original salsa, and plenty of jazz interludes to feature the group’s heavy improvisors. Whether SHO leans towards salsa or Latin Jazz, they always get to the core of the music.

As The Spanish Harlem Orchestra prepares their fifth recording, they’ve launched an Artist Share campaign, looking for fan support to complete the album and distribute it worldwide. They’ll have a couple of guests this time to add a different spin on the group’s sound, as jazz icons Chick Corea and Joe Lovano join them in the studio. They need your help to get the album completed, and you can contribute to the project through the Artist Share campaign. As usual, there are varying levels of contributions that you can make, each coming with a reward. The offers are fantastic, ranging from a copy of the completed album to a Spanish Harlem Orchestra concert; besides, once this project gets funded, we’ll get to hear SHO with Chick Corea, which will be a major treat. This is a wonderful opportunity to support one of the most important groups in both modern salsa and Latin Jazz, making sure that they continue to provide top notch music for dancers and listeners.

I hope that you can contribute to The Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s Artist Share campaign, so I’ve included a few musical reminders to encourage you. Below, you’ll find several videos featuring SHO, starting with the Artist Share video that shows the band in the studio and includes some words from Hernandez. The other three videos show several sides of the band, ranging from the heavy duty Latin Jazz tune “Perla Morena” to the old school salsa of “Ahora Si.” This is a top notch band, keeping our music alive; check out the video below and then show them your support on the Artist Share page – enjoy!

Check out The Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s website.
Check out some recordings from The Spanish Harlem Orchestra:

Viva la Tradición, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Across 110th Street, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

United We Swing, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Check Out These Related Posts:
Latin Jazz Conversations: Oscar Hernandez (Part 1)
Latin Jazz Conversations: Oscar Hernandez (Part 2)
Album Of The Week: United We Swing, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Album Of The Week: From Daddy With Love, Mitch Frohman



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Thumbnail image for Listening Center: A Sneak Peek Of Identities Are Changeable By Miguel Zenón

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