An Intimate Interview with Latin Piano Legend Larry Harlow

Larry Harlow
Larry “El Judio Maravilloso” Harlow of New York City is one of the legendary salsa piano players alive. He began climbing in his career when the term “salsa” was coined by Tico Records. Larry has played with countless legends in the Latin mambo/salsa music industry, with countless “classic” albums. Larry Harlow has had a profound effect on Latin Music with his recordings and performances. Larry developed a unique style of piano solos. Larry took time out of his busy schedule to do this interview, and we really appreciate his time.

Larry, when did you first hear Latin music as a child and what influenced and or inspired you to play Latin music?

I came from a family of all musical people.. mom, dad, uncles, brother, aunts, grandfather, great grandfather… So it was so easy to slip into music… Music and Art HS in New York City in the Barrio opened my mind to Música Latina. Going to pre-Castro Cuba to study and listen was my schooling… I fell in love with the cha cha cha.

Larry Harlow in 1973
Latin music has changed your life and your success and hard work, performing, recording, touring and your giant fan base has made you a living legend in Latin music, what impact has Latin music added to your career?

Latin Music is my career… Nothing more.

Where did your nickname “El Judio Maravilloso” come from?

Adalberto Santiago and Junior Gonzalez shouted in the studio recording of La Cartera:

Adalberto said: “Ahore Viene, el judio”

Junior: “EL Judio Maravilloso”…so the name was born.

Who is your all-time favorite piano player, present or past?

Art Tatum, Noro Morales, Charlie Palmieri.

In your career, what has been the most exciting gig you have ever performed?

Conducting La Opera Hommy in Carnagie Hall with symphony, Fania All Stars at the Cheetah, Rumble in the Jungle with FAS in Zaire, Yankee Stadium Fania All Stars, La Raza Latina Lincoln Center last year.

Orchestra Harlow Live in Quad
I have been a fan of yours from the beginning. Long ago it was hard to get Latin music on the West Coast. I really enjoyed your “Live in Quad’ classic album and your “Tribute to Arsenio” album. There have been very few musicians whom have given credit music wise to the great tres guitar legend Arsenio Rodríguez like you have. Of all your albums, which would you say is your favorite record album?

Salsa, Hommy a Latin Opera, La Raza Latina: a Salsa Suite…. in that order.

You are a living piano legend and have performed with all the masters of Latin Music of Mambo/Salsa influence. Of all the performers you have played with, in your heart whom would you say you enjoyed playing with the most?

There are so many.. Just to name a few: Arsenio, Tito Puente, Lewis Kahn, Manny Oquendo, Fania All Stars, Pacheco.

Can you tell me of your latest recording and your next future recording or recording idea?

I have no plans to record in the near future except for DVD of live large shows… The record business does not exist anymore. Last time I recorded was 2002.

You have had a busy touring schedule, tell us where you have been touring in the last few years.

I perform all over the world.. See my webpages. I do large symphonic/Latin concerts, Latin Legends, Fanias AllStars, Latin Jazz Encounter, Sofrito as well as artist in residencies at colleges and universities, productions and lectures, almost every weekend.

You mentioned once you are in the makes of writing a book about your life and career as a Latin musician, I remember you were looking for a title and I gave you a suggestion once to use the title, “The music I decided to play”, I said that because the route you took and your extremely hard work through the years has brought you to living legend status as piano player and band leader known throughout the world. Tell us a little about what your plans are with this great book you are going to write.

This book which is almost finished is the story of Larry Harlow, my life… It is not a Latin musician book but the extraordinary life of this person. Of course Latin Music was a big part of it but it is much more than that, it will be published soon.

What are the future plans for Larry Harlow and your band?

Well my plans are to have a happy and musical senior life.. I am 73 years old and do not have any plans to retire….. As long as the phones are ringing I will continue to perform and play in different forms of music. I am writing my book as well as being “Music Supervisor” to two feature films, one a musical and the other a Biopic. Both rather big projects for this year… Probably a book tour in 2013 and a lot of lying on the beach in my South Beach townhouse with my family.

Author: Les Moncada

Les Moncada is a Latin Jazz orchestra leader and conguero for over 40 years. He was born in Oakland, California and currently resides in Sacramento, California.

Les Moncada is a student of conga and batá master Francisco Aguabella, a friend of the late promoter Bill Graham, vibraphonist Cal Tjader, Latin Jazz band leader Pete Escovedo, conguero Mongo Santamaria and many, many more.

He has been writing for many years for World Music Central.

Les has several Facebook sites: Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata & bells; Conguero, Professional Conguero & their Instrument; Bongocero, Professional Bongocero their Instrument; Alambres Dulces, Tres, Cuatro & Laud


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