HOT SALSA GRAMMY-WINNING SPANISH HARLEM ORCHESTRA KEEPS AUTHENTIC SOUND VERY MUCH ALIVE.Byline: Fred Shuster Music Writer
The Spanish Harlem Spanish Harlem, also known as El Barrio, is a neighborhood in the East Harlem area of New York City, in the north-eastern part of the borough of Manhattan. Spanish Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino communities in New York City. Orchestra makes dance music worth listening to.
The 13-member ensemble uses the bracing sounds of trumpets, trombones, baritone saxophone The baritone saxophone, often called "bari sax" (to avoid confusion with the baritone horn, which is often referred to simply as "baritone"), is one of the larger and lower pitched members of the saxophone family. It was invented by Adolphe Sax. , conga, bongo bongo (bŏng`gō), spiral-horned antelope, Boocercus eurycerus, found in jungles and thick bamboo forests of equatorial Africa. Shy, elusive animals, bongos never emerge into the open and are seldom seen; they browse singly or in small , timbale tim·bale
1. A custardlike dish of cheese, chicken, fish, or vegetables baked in a drum-shaped pastry mold.
2. The pastry mold in which this food is baked. , upright bass and acoustic piano to create salsa that's both modern and historic, packing dance floors around the world along the way.
Dedicated to preserving the vital history of classic Latin orchestras while also making new sounds for 21st-century audiences, the Grammy-winning outfit has been making a splash around the world for six years.
``I know it's dance music,'' said the orchestra's pianist/arranger Oscar Hernandez, ``but there's a lot more going on. The thing about salsa is the rhythm, harmonies and arrangements, plus the way the percussion works with the bass and piano. And when you add the horns and singers, it's an amazing experience.''
Hernandez, who is based in New York's Bronx, is well-seasoned. Initially known for his work as musical director for Ruben Blades' 1980s backup group Seis SEIS Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
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SEIS Science and Engineering Information Service del Solar, he also came to wide attention as composer of the musical theme for HBO's ``Sex and the City.'' He has also gigged with such salsa giants as Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco, and worked with Julio Iglesias, Earl Klugh, Dave Valentin, Kirsty MacColl and Paul Simon.
Founded in 2000, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra - appearing tonight at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles - won the 2004 Grammy Award for best salsa album (``Across 110th Street'') and best new artist at the 2003 Billboard Latin Music Awards The Billboard Latin Music Awards grew out of the Billboard Music Awards program from Billboard Magazine, an industry publication charting the sales and radio airplay success of musical recordings. . They were also nominated for a Grammy in 2002 for best salsa album.
``As musicians, we've absorbed the traditions and legacy of what came before, and we don't have any intention of making this music commercial just for the sake of it,'' Hernandez, 51, said. ``I guess we could have rap and reggaeton elements, but that's not what we're trying to do. We want people to appreciate the music for what it is - and there are a lot of knowledgeable fans in tune with what we're doing.''
The ensemble has played to sold-out houses in Hong Kong, Istanbul, Glasgow, Brussels, London, Paris and Montreal, to name a few centers where the band has toured, bringing salsa to folks who may never have experienced the brassy, syncopated syn·co·pate
tr.v. syn·co·pat·ed, syn·co·pat·ing, syn·co·pates
1. Grammar To shorten (a word) by syncope.
2. Music To modify (rhythm) by syncopation. sound in person.
The U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper raved after a London gig that the group's ``salsa style manages to balance raw percussive per·cus·sive
Of, relating to, or characterized by percussion.
per·cussive·ly adv. power and ferocious brass with sophisticated arrangements; it's the opposite end of the Latin spectrum from the syrupy salsa romantica that mysteriously appeals to so many Latinos.''
The orchestra, which is booked to appear at the Playboy Jazz Festival The Playboy Jazz Festival is an annual event sponsored by Playboy Enterprises to celebrate jazz as well as feature both established and up and coming musicians of the genre. It was founded by Hugh Hefner and was first held in Chicago, Illinois at the Chicago Stadium in 1959. on June 17 at the Hollywood Bowl, recalls the great Fania All-Stars, which in the '70s was the house band of New York's Fania Records and comprised the label's bandleaders, top sidemen and vocalists. The group also brought salsa to legions of new listeners and was eventually marketed like a rock band.
``The analogy is made with Motown and the r&b world - in the Latin world it was Fania,'' Hernandez said. ``They took the music to a higher level worldwide and developed a lot of careers. They had a huge influence.''
Hernandez is heartened by the growing interest in his band and the music of Puerto Rico The music of Puerto Rico has been influenced by African and European (especially Spanish) forms, and has become popular across the Caribbean and in some communities worldwide. , which blossomed in New York's barrios Barrios is a name of Hispanic origin. The name may refer to: Persons
``There's a new generation coming up that's so saturated with music made by computers that they're hungry for something else,'' he said. ``With so much going on, it's hard for them to concentrate on one thing, and I can understand that. So, when they see us, it's a whole new thing. We're like a big machine that comes rolling right up.''
Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676
SPANISH HARLEM ORCHESTRA
Where: El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
When: 9 tonight.
Tickets: $25. (213) 480-3232; ticketmaster.com.
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is in town for tonight's El Rey show and will return in June for the Playboy Jazz Festival.