This month I hope to be able to pay tribute to great figures of our Latin music, who have worked tirelessly for years to make our music very high.
I want to greet my great friend Larry Harlow and wish him a speedy recovery. Larry Harlow is an American artist and performer, composer and producer of Cuban son, Montuno, Afro-Cuban jazz, mambo, guaracha, cha-cha, and salsa, hailing from Brooklyn, New York. Harlow, who is known for his mix of Afro-Cuban jazz and piano playing styles, studied music in the 1950s in Cuba, but was unable to complete his studies before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, forcing him to leave the island.
Larry Harlow y Johnny Cruz
The Harlow Orchestra was the first to sign with Fania Records, Harlow has also produced more than 106 albums by various artists and more than 50 albums of his own authorship, in addition to those he produced for Fania. Among his most popular albums were “Abran Paso” and “Tributo a Arsenio Rodríguez” with Ismael Miranda as the vocalist. He also appeared with La Fania All-Stars, in the film, Nuestra Cosa Latina. Harlow recorded one of his most momentous albums in just two days. Under the simple title of Salsa, it pays homage to the Cuban roots of tropical music, combining the sound of trumpets and trombones with two violins that evoke the aesthetics of the charanga of groups such as Orquesta Aragón.
With “The portfolio”, a version of a song by Arsenio Rodríguez, Harlow finds his greatest success. Thanks to the singers Adalberto Santiago and Junior González, the nickname “the wonderful Jew” arises. In 1972, salsa was in full swing. Larry Harlow, meditates on a musical concept for the Afro-Caribbean music market. Inspired by the success of the Anglo-Saxon opera, “Tommy”, Harlow was preparing for the launch of a similar concept, aimed at the salsa market.
For 1973 the opera Hommy, using the lyrics of Heny Álvarez, tells the story of a boy who, although blind and deaf, had a great talent for percussion. The outstanding musicians of the time and singers such as Justo Betancourt, Cheo Feliciano, Adalberto Santiago, Junior González, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez and Celia Cruz joined.
The combination of musicians and voices achieved its goal with a recording that established a lecture in the history of Afro-Caribbean music with a radiant exhibition that captured the airwaves and the imagination of the salsa audience. The songs “Es un Varón”, “El Día De Navidad”, “Quirinbomboro”, “Gracia Divina”, “Cari-Caridad” and “Soy Sensacional” were undoubted radio hits that became themes of dance and discussion among all the salseros. It was the first time that an opera, Spanish-speaking, and in the salsa guild, was directed to the populace. Salsa got dressed up and that legacy opened the doors for the Afro-Caribbean musical tradition to now visit the most prestigious venues in the world.
That is the legacy of “Hommy”, one of the best recordings of the time, which brought together the best musicians of the moment in an expression that transcended time; and, in turn, he brought Celia Cruz to the salsa market and placed her in a seat of honor which she never left. But more importantly, “Hommy” took Salsa to a new place among audiences. What a contribution from Larry Harlow!
I also want to send my regards and appreciation to Ralph Irizarry. Recognized as one of the timpanists with the greatest “swing”, Ralph Irizarry has a distinctive style that has allowed him to leave an indelible mark in the groups where he has played. Born in Harlem Latino New Yorker, Ralph is a self-taught musician who learned his trade by listening to his brother’s records and the music of his idols in nightclubs, where he used to sneak into when he was 16 years old. His family moved to Puerto Rico when Ralph was in his teens; There he acquired his first professional experiences with La Terrífica, El Gran Combo, La Sonora Ponceña and many other groups. After three years on the island, Ralph returned to New York, where he began playing with local groups.
One winter night in 1978, he met the legendary Ray Barreto at Manhattan’s Corso Nightclub and began a productive working relationship that would result in five extraordinary recordings. Ralph has recorded with David Byrne, Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte, Earl Klugh, Juan Luis Guerra, Cachao, Celia Cruz and Yomo Toro, although he is widely recognized for his musical relationship with Rubén Blades and Seis Del Solar, with whom he remained. recording and performing internationally for 13 years.
His musical contributions have also been fundamental in the recording of two Latin jazz albums made by Seis del Solar for the Messidor Records label. Currently, he is one of the most sought after musicians who has kept working on commercials and film and television soundtracks.
His charisma also allowed him to develop an unexpected acting career: he acted in The Mambo Kings, playing the role of Pito Fernández. In the summer of 1996, Ralph participated along with Tito Puente in the show Master Timbaleros, presented at S.O.B.’s in New York. This historic concert was the culmination of 26 years of dedication, practice, and love of music. He founded the group Timbalaye, a septet with a strong big band sound.
The group combines contemporary Latin jazz with diverse tropical rhythms (timba and songo) and traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms (bomba, cha cha chá and son montuno). Their innovative sound has allowed the group to perform weekly at various venues in New York. Among his most recent projects is a recording at Birdland for a compilation to be released by the RCA Records label. Timbalaye is considered the force of Latin jazz. My hug and respect to you Ralph!
I am happy to express my gratitude and admiration to a powerful woman, Director of Taínos Tower and Vice President of the Museum of Salsa: María Cruz.
Johnny Cruz and Mrs. María Cruz
María Cruz was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. In 1966 she came to New York looking for new opportunities. While studying at Manhattan Community College, she began working with the East Harlem Pilot Block Redevelopment Project. Although she may have had no idea at the time, that job was the beginning of her career as a community activist and advocate for social services. As a community worker at the East Harlem Pilot Block, she helped design and offer a tenant orientation in preparation for the occupation at Taino Towers.
Later, she became a Building Representative and worked with tenants regarding apartment issues, rent, social service issues, and Section 8. Maria Cruz has been involved in many community activities:
From 1984 to 1989; She served as president of the Tenants Association of her apartment building. She was vice president of the East Harlem Little League Baseball organization. In her spare time, she organized bus trips for neighborhood children to amusement parks and ball games. Encouraged and assisted several tenants to return to school and continue their education, so that they can be trained and empowered to return to the workforce and leave Public Assistance. Ms. Cruz earned her RAM (Registered Apartment Manager) certificate from NYU and is registered as a Certified Leasing Professional.
Currently, Ms. Cruz is the Executive Director of ARCO Management Inc. / Taino Towers. She has always been a strong activist for the community. In the summer of 1999, Ms. Cruz organized the first annual Taino Family Day. Day in which all residents and members of the East Harlem community participate and celebrate a day of unity. On Taino Family Day, residents rent “kioscos” food stalls and sell various ethnic foods, dance to the rhythm of various musical bands, and children enjoy activities such as face painting, puppet theater, and a petting zoo.
Each year, Ms. Cruz focuses on a different topic such as: education, music, tributes, and family values. As Executive Director, one of her greatest accomplishments was the renovation of the Touro College building. She is currently a board member of the East Harlem Council for Human Services and works closely with local politicians and representatives.
In 2002, Ms. Cruz along with Irving “Magic” Johnson opened the Magic Johnson Computer Learning Center. This program provides computer classes to Taino Towers and the East Harlem Community. As Executive Director, she was also able to oversee the completion of the Senior Park at Taino Towers.
In the summer of 2003, voted by the majority of the tenants, the Park for the elderly was renamed the Maria Cruz Park for the elderly. In September 2019, she was honored with the Eugenio María de Hostos Award from the Puerto Rican National Association for her commitment to the East Harlem Community. People like Mrs. Cruz are exemplary citizens of the Latino community in the United States, and in New York.
Papo Rosario and Isidro Infante
Do not stop listening to the new single: “Gracias”, and the first solo production of Papo Rosario, produced by the arranger and musician Isidro Infante. Rosario is grateful to be alive and to be able to walk after being bedridden as a result of a car accident. Papo Rosario is a world-class artist who has put the name of Puerto Rico high. Rosario, withdrew in 2019 from the group considered the “university of salsa”, El Gran combo de Puerto Rico, after having an accident and presenting health problems. Now, he affirms that he already feels ready to resume his musical career with the launch of his first solo production by producer Isidro Infante. Much success in this new stage.
I highly recommend that you follow the track of Quintero’s Salsa Project, a Venezuelan salsa group based in New York, nominated for a Latin Grammy and led by cousins Luisito and Roberto Quintero, released an album in which they pay tribute to the work of La Dimensión Latina, the orchestra that represented a before and after in the history of this musical genre in Venezuela.
Quintero´s Salsa Project
The band wanted to go back to the 60s to remember that particular style with which La Dimensión Latina championed Venezuelan salsa: “Many of the world’s salsa players and Venezuelans identify with this rhythm. We, the Quintero, have always been loyal fans of these great teachers. With this album we wish to pay tribute to those who today are a world icon of salsa ”, they said through their networks. “Ya tú lo verás”, promotional single from the album composed by Oscar D’León, was arranged by the legendary trombonist and director of La Dimensión Latina, César Monges, better known as “Albóndiga”.
The album is the second released by Quintero’s Salsa Project, following their debut project, Nuestro Hogar, which was nominated for the 2019 Latin Grammy for Best Salsa Album. In that same ceremony, Luisito Quintero, one of the great Venezuelan percussionists who make a professional life in the United States, received the gramophone as a member of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, which was recognized for his Anniversary album as Best Latin Tropical Album. Quintero is also a member of the group of the great pianist Chick Corea. Do not miss it!
The invitation to tune in to the new Fm / Internet radio station on Live365.com continues: Salsagallery. Good music, interviews with the artists and much more.
Johnny Cruz on the Radio
At the Spanish Harlem Salsa Gallery Museum we are happy to say that we are gradually returning to our activities and we will be opening the gallery sporadically. We do not stop, we continue to work for our music and we will always keep you informed through our social networks. We hope to have more news shortly and that we can return to normal soon.
By Johnny Cruz, ISM Correspondents, New York, New York City