He is a traditional and important figure in Latin music.
Pianist, Multi-Instrumentalist, Arranger, Composer, Producer and Musical Director Lawrence Ira Khan “Larry Harlow el Judío Maravilloso” was born on March 20, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
He traveled to Cuba in the ’50s, at which time he established his residence and began to study Afro-Cuban music. After gaining experience, he returned to New York to develop his own style and created his group “The Harlow Orchestra”.
Later, he participated in “The Fania All Stars”. During his years with Fania, Harlow recorded 35 albums as the leader of his own orchestra and another 20 as a member of Fania.
He also produced more than 200 recordings for other artists, created and composed the first salsa opera, “Hommy”, which he orchestrated, directed and performed in New York and Puerto Rico.
Harlow stays active on international tours as well as in the main cities of the United States. In the present day, in addition to playing with his band, Harlow records and directs videos for standout artists from the United States and Europe.
Larry Harlow, a salsa composer.
The Latin music iconic pianist’s career in 10 recordings that marked an era and the history.
Heavy Smokin’ (1966)
In 1964, future salsa impresario Jerry Masucci went to the Chez José club to go dancing with his girlfriend in Manhattan. Impressed with the orchestra playing, Masucci approached its leader, a young pianist of Jewish origin named Larry Harlow, and offered him a record contract. Harlow would be the first artist signed by the newly-opened label of Fania Records. Recorded with Cuban singer Felo Brito, this first LP includes “La juventud”, as well as “Chez José”, which was a tribute to the club where it all started.
Presenta a Ismael Miranda (1969)
In the late 1960s, Harlow found the singer who would bring his group to the aristocracy of salsa: a young Puerto Rican boy named Ismael Miranda. Although their personalities are completely different, Harlow and Miranda record a series of explosive LPs with Afro-Cuban rhythms. This is their second collaboration and features some boogaloo songs, which was the fashion of the moment. The bassist is Bobby Valentin, who contributes three songs, including the lethal swing of “La Contraria”.
Abran Paso! (1971)
While collaborating with the legendary Fania All Stars as a keyboard player, Harlow feverishly records, taking advantage of the explosion of salsa as a cultural phenomenon. His trombone and trumpet sound reaches a paroxysm of flavor on Abran paso!, anchored in such wonderful compositions made by Ismael Miranda as “Abandonada fue”, “Donde llevas el son” and “Dolor y amor”. The singer brings his Puerto Rican sensibility, while the orchestrations of Harlow are nurtured in the tradition of Cuban son. An combination of electrifying artistic and commercial success.
Homenaje a Arsenio Rodríguez (1971)
When Arsenio Rodriguez (musical genius, blind, and pioneer of Cuban son passed away in Los Angeles in December 1970) Harlow quickly decided to record an LP dedicated to his work. Along with Miranda, he wrote the song “Arsenio”, a strong salsa with Cuban flavour and a climate of heartbreaking melancholy. The rest of the LP, which was recorded in an eight-hour session, is dedicated to Rodríguez’s repertoire, with extraordinary versions of “Tumba y bongo”, “No me llores” and “El terror”, among others. Indispensable.
Hommy A Latin Opera (1973)
In the early 70s, Ismael Miranda decided to leave the orchestra of Harlow and pursue a solo career, which would cause animosity between them for a long time. Harlow began developing ambitious projects. Inspired by the rock opera Tommy by the English group The Who, he recorded Hommy, with the participation of Cheo Feliciano and Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, among others. Harlow asked Celia Cruz, who was neglected by the music industry at that time, to sing “Gracia Divina”, which resurrected her career.
Harlow recorded one of his most significant albums in just two days. Under the simple title Salsa, it paid tribute to the Cuban roots of tropical music, combining the trombone and trumpet sound with two violins that evoke the aesthetics charanga made by groups like Orquesta Aragón. With “La cartera”, a cover version of a song by Arsenio Rodriguez, Harlow achieved his biggest hit. Thanks to singers Adalberto Santiago and Junior González, the nickname “El Judío Maravilloso” came about.
El Judío Maravilloso (1975)
Harlow continued to record prodigious albums, now with Junior Gonzalez as lead vocalist. This LP of the year 1975 continues to exploit an epic sound with a amarked Cuban influence. The opening track, “El dolorcito de mi china”, by Arsenio Rodriguez, lasts 10 minutes and includes a piano solo full of virtuosity and expressiveness. The peak of keyboard player’s carrer showed no signs of fading, as demonstrated by his versions of “Buenavista guaguancó” and “El negrito ñéngere”, as well as the psychedelic instrumental “Latin Roots”, composed by Harlow himself.
La Raza Latina (1977)
At the end of the 70s, salsa is fertile ground for grandiloquent experiments of a symphonic character. Harlow participated in this trend with a musical, A Salsa Suite, which describes the evolution of the tropical genre from Africa to the Caribbean, passing through New York of the 50s and 60s and culminating in a song dedicated to the future. Harlow hired Rubén Blades to be his vocalist, although this is not his prime. A failed and brief album, but fascinating in its conceptual ambition.
Larry Harlow presents Latin Fever (1978)
Harlow always showed the eclectic trends of a cosmopolitan musician. In 1970, for example, he recorded a rock record in the style of Chicago band with the group Ambergris. In 1978, he produced this fascinating LP by Latin Fever, a group consisting of 14 female singers and instrumentalists. These include percussionist Susan Hadjopoulos, who would become famous with English Joe Jackson, and the singer Ada Chabrier, who also collaborated with Ray Barretto and Willie Colón. A rarity that is worth discovering.
Larry Harlow’s Latin Legends Band (1998)
Harlow continued to record high-quality LPs in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, when the interest in classic salsa had been increasing, he formed the band Latin Legends with conguero Ray Barretto and singer Adalberto Santiago. This first album includes the participation of Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez (a few years before his death) and Ismael Miranda. The sound is warm and organic, emphasizing the musical knowledge of these veterans. According to Harlow, it was his favorite band to play live.
The Jewish Salsa Pianist, Innovative and Irreverent
This day 20 / 8 /2021 and after 32 days hospitalized “El Judío Maravilloso” Larry dies in New York at 12:30 a.m. from complications as a kidney patient that weakened his already weary heart.
Words of his wife Maria Del Carmen Harlow-Kahn
“Mi Amore, you are already free to play your music in the celestial orchestra. Thank you for the honor of accompanying you and loving you till the end of your life.
You will live forever in my heart and in the hearts of all who love your music and your huge legacy, fly high my Wonderful Jew and rest in peace.”
Artículo de interés: La voz de Markolino Dimond y su irreverente piano en Funk / Soul & Funk-Disco “The Alexander Review