Street Date: April 16, 2018
On Anniversary the powerhouse 13-piece all-star salsa big band demonstrates why they are the “the leading light of the salsa reconstruction movement” (Newsday) by doing what they do best: hard-hitting, no-holds-barred New York salsa that is both contemporary and reverent to its rich musical history.
Since their inception 15 years ago, Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO), under the direction of pianist, composer and arranger Oscar Hernández, has earned its reputation as the true voice of the barrio with intricate arrangements and pulsating rhythms that are steeped in the authentic salsa tradition. Their high-energy performances have delighted audiences across the globe from Asia to Australia, from Latin America to Europe. Grounded in the past, but with a focused eye on the future, Spanish Harlem Orchestra continues to play an integral role in ensuring salsa dura (“hard salsa”) is not just alive, but a thriving musical force. “Over the course of 15 years, the consistent thread in each of our records has been the hardcore rhythm, sophisticated arrangements and a lot of care toward producing quality music with high integrity for our genre,” says Hernández.
Each member of Spanish Harlem Orchestra has a significant connection to the authentic salsa tradition. It begins with Hernández, who has long been considered one of the most prominent musicians on the Latin, salsa and Latin-jazz music scene. Hernández’s musical legacy can be traced back to the 1970’s, a time in which he performed with a who’s who of salsa legends ranging from Celia Cruz and Ray Barreto to Ismael Miranda and Conjunto Libre, and later Tito Puente and Willie Colon.
Along with showcasing the vocal prowess of long-time members Marco Bermudez and Carlos Cascante, Anniversary displays the talents of one of Latin music’s most promising up and coming stars in vocalist and flutist Jeremy Bosch. On his recording debut for SHO, the 27-year-old talent contributes, in the words of Hernández, an “instant new dynamic and energy to the band”. One of Bosch’s brightest moments can be heard on the album’s second offering “Yo Te Prometo.”
While SHO’s previous album featured jazz greats Chick Corea and Joe Lovano, Anniversary allows the band to speak for themselves over the course of 13 lively tracks. Standout moments include the album opener “Esa Nena”, which swings to no end while highlighting SHO’s signature sophisticated arrangements, and Hernández’s “Goza El Ritmo”, which will instantly bring listeners to their feet. Other noteworthy flashes include three modern arrangements of salsa classics: the bolero “La Media Vuelta” is reworked in a salsa style featuring 3-part harmonies and a simmering brass section, while “Y Deja” (Ruben Blades/Willie Colon) and “Guaracha Y Bembe” (Joe Cuba/Cheo Feliciano) are given contemporary updates with a flesh flair. On all their recordings, SHO includes some Latin Jazz. This time jazz trumpet legend Randy Brecker is a featured guest on Hernández’s original song “Somos Uno”.
Produced by Hernández and co-produced by SHO trombonist Doug Beavers, Anniversary builds on the dynamic legacy built by their previous five releases, which have garnered four GRAMMY® nominations and two wins (in 2004 for sophomore album Across 110th Street and again in 2010 for Viva La Tradicion). Considered “virtuosic journeymen who are one of New York’s great musical resources” (The New York Times), SHO has expanded greatly from their home turf of Harlem to some of the world’s premiere stages including the Sydney Opera House, the Playboy Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, and many others.
To celebrate the release of Anniversary, Spanish Harlem Orchestra will be performing on Wednesday, April 4th, at Le Poisson Rouge located at 158 Bleeker Street in New York City.
RAUL DA GAMA
"The facts are remarkable: For 15 years the Spanish Harlem Orchestra has been a force of nature as the group rules the salsa waves that start in El Barrio in East Harlem and wash over the whole world wherever salsa and Latin jazz is heard and loved." Read the full review here.