Release Date: May 20, 2022
Label: Ovation Records
Within the vast landscape of Latin music in New York City, few ensembles have had such a magnificent impact as the 3x GRAMMY®-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO). Founded by pianist and composer Oscar Hernández two decades ago, the mission statement of SHO is to honor the tradition of great Latin music, and to continue their work as “the leading light of the salsa reconstruction movement” (Newsday). On Imágenes Latinas, SHO stays true to their purpose.
“As leader and producer, my mission and vision is to represent the great history and legacy of this music that I’ve been blessed to be a part of my entire life,” reflects Hernández. “Our passion and commitment to this music is never ending.” With this unyielding motivation Imágenes Latinas finds the band exploring new dimensions but never deviates from its core belief. “As with all the new SHO recordings, the concept and sound is the same but the playing of new songs, arrangements, and performances always aim to create a new magic for the listeners,” Hernández adds.
The title nods to the iconic New York Latin pop group Conjunto Libré. Featuring brothers Andy and Jerry Gonzalez, plus Manny Oquendo and Barry Rogers, Hernández cites Conjunto Libré which as one of his predominant musical influences. “Libre was one of the great bands of our music… their talent and friendship were very important to my early music foundation,” the bandleader shares. The track “Imágenes Latinas”, one of the most enigmatic pieces of Conjunto Libre’s repertoire, is a poetic meditation on the evolution of the Latin American diaspora throughout history. Here, the orchestra gives the song a contemporary treatment, introducing some new harmonic perspectives in the arrangement while maintaining its original essence.
Of the original selections, the lyrical content of “La Música Latina” feels like the thematic continuation of what is introduced with the title track, finding the ensemble in top form and showcasing the gravitas of the great Carlos Cascante on lead vocals. The brisk “Mambo 2021” is a throwback to SHO’s last album, The Latin Jazz Project, and displays this side of the group with great solo interventions by Hernández, Jeremy Bosch on flute and Mitch Frohman on baritone saxophone, punctuated by a burning timbal solo by the incomparable Luisito Quintero.
The rest of Imágenes Latinas finds the group seamlessly traveling through a wide variety of moods and styles, reminding listeners that this is a seasoned ensemble of the very best musicians playing this music. The song “Mi Amor Sincero” starts as a slow bolero and before transforming into a cha-cha with an outstanding trombone solo by GRAMMY® winner Doug Beavers, who also serves as the album co-producer. The album is full of these surprising transitions that keep the listener engaged, and the arrangements manage to pull off these transformations in a way that is decidedly sleek; the casual listener will delight in the joy of listening to these tunes, while those in the know will have plenty of elements to analyze.
Like it’s predecessors, Imágenes Latinas earns its place in Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s top-notch discography, and showcases, once again, why they are the premier working ensemble in this music today.
With eight albums and five GRAMMY® nominations, this powerhouse orchestra is aware that it is crucial to continually push themselves and raise the bar. Their sixth album entitled “Anniversary” won the 2019 GRAMMY® Award for “Best Tropical Album”.
The Latin Jazz Project
Release Date: May 22, 2020
Label: Artist Share
After flashing glimpses of their Latin Jazz prowess over the course of their previous six recordings, Spanish Harlem Orchestra goes ‘all in’ on The Latin Jazz Project, their first full length Latin jazz release. A litany of top-tier jazz artists join the ensemble as featured guests soloists: Kurt Elling, Miguel Zenon, Tom Harrell, Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Joe Locke, and others. This is a fan-funded project through ArtistShare.
For the past 17 years, Spanish Harlem Orchestra has earned their reputation as today’s premier salsa ensemble. Considered “the leading light of the salsa reconstruction movement” (Newsday), SHO has released six critically acclaimed albums including Anniversary (Artist Share), which most recently won the GRAMMY® Award for Best Tropical Latin Album. They have performed on the world’s top stages and at nearly every major jazz festival including those in Newport, Montreal, and Monterey. Especially through their live performances, SHO has successfully built a bridge between Latin and jazz music, evidenced by their countless standing ovations at festivals and critical acclaim from the press. The Latin Jazz Project builds upon that legacy and brings SHO full circle into the Latin jazz arena.
The Latin Jazz Project is a natural progression for Spanish Harlem Orchestra. For starters, SHO Artistic Director Oscar Hernández is considered one of the most important Latin jazz pianists of his generation. His storied career extends back four decades and includes performances and recordings with an impressive list of Latin music greats including Tito Puente, Machito, Celia Cruz, Conjunto Libre, and Willie Colon, among others. Hernández spent six years playing with Ray Barreto and appeared on five of his recordings including the seminal Rican/Struction. Herná
As a leader, Hernández has released two Latin jazz albums with Origin records: The Art of Latin Jazz (2017) and Love The Moment (2019), which went on to receive four stars by Downbeat Magazine. Now, Hernández has melded his Latin jazz expertise with Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s signature salsa dura sound to produce an instant classic in The Latin Jazz Project, the ensemble’s first all-Latin jazz recording. “We have always been steeped in the tradition of Latin jazz,” says Hernández, adding, “…it makes sense for us to finally get to this point. I couldn’t be more proud of this project and this band.”
Spanish Harlem Orchestra has long collaborated with jazz greats; in 2015, Chick Corea and Joe Lovano appeared on their self-titled release and Anniversary featured a guest appearance by Randy Brecker. The tradition continues on The Latin Jazz Project, which features an impressive cadre of jazz elite including Miguel Zenon and Kurt Elling (“Invitation”), Bob Mintzer (“Bobo”), Bob Franceschini (“Acid Rain”), Tom Harrell (“Los Palmas”), Jimmy Haslip and Dave Liebman (“Silent Prayers”). Jonathan Powell (“Round Midnight”), Michael Rodrigeuz (“Fort Apache”), and Joe Locke (“Latin Perspective”).
The Latin Jazz Project presents a new side to Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Co-producer and trombonist Doug Beavers says: “…we really wanted to present SHO in a different light with this project- that of a world-class ensemble that can go toe-to-toe with any renowned jazz ensemble or jazz orchestra in the world. For this, we thought the vehicle of Latin Jazz gave us the best medium to explore how different jazz masters would mesh with the orchestra and explore the idiom.The results came out very natural sounding and exciting, as if these jazz greats had been performing with SHO for years.”
With The Latin Jazz Project, Spanish Harlem Orchestra adds to an impressive discography that showcases a dynamic music legacy built by their previous six releases. These recordings have garnered five GRAMMY® nominations and three wins (in 2004 for sophomore album Across 110th Street, in 2010 for Viva La Tradicion, and as noted, last year for Anniversary).
Release Date: April 16, 2018
61st Annual Grammy Award Winner for BEST TROPICAL LATIN ALBUM
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.
for Imagenes Latinas
THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"..SHO gloriously succeeds in a Latin groove guaranteed to get feet tapping and bodies moving with delight." Read the complete review in the May 2022 issue here.
NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY
"We took this group for granted for so long: good to have them back." Read the review here.
"Imágenes Latinas" continues the Spanish Harlem Orchestra tradition of excellence in blending salsa dura and jazz." Feature here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NET
"Oscar Hernández and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra [SHO] have set the bar so high for the kind of Afro-Caribbean ensemble musicianship that no one but the SHO itself can raise that bar." Read the review here.
LATIN JAZZ NET
"..the casual listener will delight in the joy of listening to these tunes, while those in the know will have plenty of elements to analyze." Read the review here.
VICENTE TOLEDO ROHENA
"SHO is working with great consistency.." Read the complete review in Spanish here.
"Each one of the 11 tracks is infused with lively toe-tapping, thigh-slapping tempos that require a highly disciplined urge not to leap from your seat.." Read the full review in the August issue of Downbeat magazine and online here.
LATIN JAZZ NET
"On Imágenes Latinas, their eighth release, SHO stays true to their purpose." Read the week's Latin Side of Jazz here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"This is an all-star band of musicians who put spice and authenticity into every note they play." Read the review here.
LATINO MUSIC CAFE
"Oscar Hernández and his Spanish Harlem Orchestra have been successfully delivering the art of Salsa for 20 years." Feature here.
TAKE EFFECT REVIEWS
"Not so surprisingly, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra have won 3 Grammy Awards, and this very adaptable and authentic listen will certainly please longtime fans and make plenty of new ones." Read the review here.
for The Latin Jazz Project
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Another excellent outing from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra." Read the full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NETWORK
"The compositions themselves supply the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and its guests with a cornucopia of dancing melodies, insistent and energetic rhythms, and edifying harmonic concepts. Naturally the makes for many memorable moments woven into a diaphanous sonic fabric made up of the most spectacular musical texture." Read the full review here.
THE JAZZ OWL
"Oscar Hernandez and Spanish Harlem Orchestra have created an album of raw energy, tight grooves, beautiful melodies, and compositions to thrill and amaze any listener. The Latin Jazz Project was wroth the wait." Read the full review here.
: The Latin Jazz Project is an intriguing album that serves as a superlative example of what happens when Latin jazz sensibilities are coupled with the jazz idiom.” (https://blackgrooves.org/spanish-harlem-orchestra-the-latin-jazz-project/). Read the full review here.
LA HABITACIÓN DEL JAZZ
"Spanish Harlem Orchestra se ha convertido en un grupo de culto en su estilo gracias a su maestría interpretativa." Lea este articulo aquí.
SALSA SON TIMBA
"La Spanish Harlem, siempre ha sido una orquesta dedicada al bailador, esta es su primera producción mayormente dedicada al Jazz Latino, aunque su director Oscar Hernandez, ya habría presentado como solista algunas producciones con esta linea musical en 2017 y 2019." Lea esta reseña aquí.
This week’s playlist potpourri features mostly new plus a sprinkling of vintage tracks from around the world. Read the full playlist here.
"The body of the album sashays between the soulful and the serene and each track has a strong narrative drive" ★★★★☆ Read the full review here.
SOLAR LATIN CLUB
"Un album con alta factura, como nos tiene habituados Oscar Hernandez. Precisión y maestría insuperables." Lea esta reseña aquí.
DJ WALTER B NICE
"Understanding the powerful and unique quality of these particular moments, leader Hernandez along with co-producer Doug Beavers visualized that it was finally time to shine a slightly different light on the band and present the 3x Grammy-winning ensemble solely within the context of the culturally-rich and transcendent Latin Jazz genre." Read the news piece here.
"An opus that dazzles." Full four star review here.
WORLD MUSIC CENTRAL
"The Latin Jazz Project is a fantastic, masterfully produced recording, showcasing the talent of band leader Oscar Hernández, the SHO and its guests, who deliver irresistible Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms and memorable big band jazz arrangements and solos along with flamenco."Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
L.A JAZZ SCENE
“I just want my legacy to be about good music. My music comes from a real place. It comes from a place where I am a part of that history. It’s been close to fifty years now and I’ve had the opportunity to keep putting my music out there; music that I feel in my heart." Read the full feature here.
WICN PUBLIC RADIO
"With “The Latin Jazz Project,” Spanish Harlem Orchestra adds to an impressive discography that showcases a dynamic musical legacy built upon their previous six releases." Read the full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Driven by a powerful rhythm section, the band's five horns and three vocalists perform the urbane orchestrations with enviable sophistication." Read the full review here.
LATINO MUSIC CAFÉ
"The arrangements are sure to delight those of us that reminisce on the Salsa sound of the 70’s and 80’s." Read the full review here.
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.
"The high-energy sound of SHO—in the salsa dura (hard salsa) style—incorporates driving rhythms perfect for the dance floor." Listen to the full interview here.
"More than just expert, authentic, tight Latin jazz, it’s a true work of art. And when you hear its infectious rhythms, good luck trying not to move." Read the full feature here.
"At this point in history, salsa is a legacy genre like Chicago blues, roots reggae and bluegrass; there aren’t as many people taking it to new places anymore and this is one group who still are." Review here.
THE MERCURY NEWS
"Sizzling Spanish Harlem Orchestra back in Bay Area." Read the full feature here.
"Among the compositions there is cha-cha-cha, and jazz, and bolero, but all of them are translated into a flexible, slightly sentimental, but winding and energetic salsa language." Read the full Russian review here.
Bold, brassy and bright, this is top shelf fun stuff that gets the party started but doesn't let it end. A first class party on a platter, this is a smashing way to ring in their 15th year of keeping things hot. A muy caliente garden of delights. Read the full review here.
"There’s huge variety and virtuosity in all departments in this typically bravura performance of New York “salsa dura” – in the writing, arranging, playing and singing." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Champions of salsa dura ("hard salsa"), this is a band whose technical skill is matched only by their consistent high energy." Read the full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NETWORK
"The cherry on the cake may be “Tres Palabras” but every other work is sparkling and gem-like so that even after just over an hour, one is left quite simply gasping for more." Read the full review here.
"Led by pianist, composer and arranger Oscar Hernandez, this salsa powerhouse presents a generous, 68-minute program that highlights the compositions of its members, including high-octane, dance-worthy tunes by Hernandez and singers Marco Bermudez, Carlos Cascante and Jeremy Bosch as well as conguero George Delgado." Read the full review here.
"Hernandez says the Spanish Harlem Orchestra is proud to carry on the legacy of the giants in Latin music, including Tito Puente and Ray Baretto - both of whom he's played with - and it's evident in their latest album, Anniversary." Full radio feature here.
"Grounded in the past, while focused on the future, they strive to keep the music relevant, while creating a unique and fresh approach." Read the full review here.
BOSTON CONCERT REVIEWS
"From their first fiery notes, Spanish Harlem Orchestra proved to be a tight, dynamic band that wasted no time in igniting their propulsive songs drenched in their Puerto Rican heritage." Read the full concert review here.
"This celebratory disc, released to mark the band's very own quince anos, boasts 13 tracks whose sophisticated arrangements take nothing away from the wallop packed by salsa dura as it was meant to be played: hot, hard and straight out of the barrio."