Spanish Harlem Orchestra
United We Swing (Six Degrees, 2007)
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is one of the finest salsa and Latin jazz bands in the United States. Its fiery sound, combining fiery brass, a powerful rhythm section, and up to three excellent vocalists, has made it into the top heir to the New York salsa sound.
Spanish Harlem Orchestra creates a big band sound, exploring traditional Cuban genres such as son, guaracha, and cha cha cha. Nine of the songs are original compositions.
"Our music style is the original sound of New York old school "Salsa dura" (heavy salsa) that was played in the early years by our pioneers," says band leader and pianist Oscar Hernández. "That sound has been lost and we want to keep it alive while educating the new generations (and music lovers in general) on the true musical roots of our culture." Oscar adds, "we’ve brought back the essence of what makes this music great and are keeping the salsa spirit alive in our recordings and shows."
United We Swing features some of the finest arrangers in the U.S. salsa scene. "I have a lot of colleagues who helped me on this album and who I feel have their finger on the pulse of what this music should be. The arrangers include Sonny Bravo, Gil Lopez, Angel Fernandez, Jose Febles and myself," says Oscar.
The last track o the album features a very special guest, Paul Simon. "I was talking to Paul and asked him if he would want to be a guest on our album," says Oscar. "No sooner had the words come out of my mouth and he said, ‘I’d love to. What are you thinking about?’ I was floored and completely honored. Paul Simon doesn’t just record with anybody."
"The first verse that he sings a capella is distinctively different. He told me to leave it like that because he didn’t want it to sound like the original. It’s more like a dream years later. The combination is really cool. I was going to do it with the original horn lines but in this case I took it to the realm of what we are all about."
Not all the members of the band come from Spanish Harlem, also known as El Barrio, a Hispanic community in New York City located to the south of 125th St. "I’m from the Bronx," concludes Oscar, "but if you’re a Latino in NYC you always have a connection to Spanish Harlem. It’s a place where a lot of stuff has happened that for me is kind of a microcosm for Latin New York. As a community it is an important part of the fabric that makes up the city, and we’re compelled to share the power of the music and culture with the world.
Buy the Spanish Harlem Orchestra albums:
- In North America: Viva la Tradición, Un Gran Dia En El Barrio, United We Swing, Across 110th Street
- In Europe: Viva la Tradición, Across 110th Street, United We Swing, Un Gran Dia En El Barrio
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.