Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Now in its tenth year, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra is one of the most formidable and authentic Latin jazz combos of today. Yet for all of its appeal with contemporary audiences, the group’s success is actually rooted in the past. A lively and energetic affair, Viva la Tradición draws on inspiration from the music’s history and enduring traditions. The collection is comprised largely of original compositions and arrangements of classic salsa tunes by bandleader/founder Oscar Hernandez. Hernández is one of the most respected musicians in Latin & Latin Jazz music.His track record & discography are extensive. On the new CD he enlists the support of veteran composer and arranger Gil Lopez on three of Lopez’s compositions ("Son De Corazon,” "Nuestra Cancion,” and "Regala De Dios).
Viva la Tradicón opens with the exciting "La Salsa Dura,” a song bursting with punching horn lines and spirited vocals that "really captures what we’re about,” says Hernandez. Amid the series of salsa tracks, one of Gil Lopez’s arrangements, "Nuestra Cancion,” acts as an unlikely addition to the high-powered energy of the set. The collective included this ballad as a point to their listeners, in order to communicate, "you need to listen to this, because this how it was done back in those days. It was just beautiful music.”
The orchestra finishes with two songs: Hernandez’s "Rumba Urbana,” a percussive and complex tune that shimmers with tight trumpet lines and syncopated rhythms around improvised solos, and "El Negro Tiene Tumbao,” a tune that draws on the bold and artistic delivery by featured guest vocalist Isaac Delgado.
Front to back, Viva la Tradición is very much a nod to the countless artists – well known and obscure – who helped usher salsa music into the cultural mainstream several decades ago. "Preserving that legacy and introducing it to new audiences in a new century,” says Hernandez, "is more important than being the musical flavor of the month.”