This month I want to continue sharing good news for everyone in NY and in the salsa world. On this occasion, Oscar Hernández and Spanish Harlem Orquesta join Spaha Salsa Gallery Museum. Oscar has donated an incredible piece that we will be exhibiting immediately.
Four times Grammy Award Winner, Oscar Hernández, has long been considered one of the most gifted and prominent pianist / arrangers on the contemporary Latin, Latin-jazz and salsa music scene. He has achieved legendary status for his prolific career spanning now over 40 years.
Hernández is the leader of the world renowned Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Won the Grammy for their second CD release, “Across 110th Street” and winning yet another Grammy with their 4th CD “Viva La Tradition” and won their 3rd Grammy with “Anniversary” in 2019. Oscar was the music producer as well as pianist / arranger on all CD’s.
Since the band’s inception in the year 2001, SHO has garnered numerous awards and world acclaim as one of the finest exponents of Salsa and Latin / Jazz music. Spanish Harlem Orchestra is generally considered one of the best Salsa & Latin Jazz Orchestras today and one of the finest music ensembles in the world.
The Bronx native has produced such artists as Ruben Blades, Paul Simon, Willie Colón “Carabali”, Daniel Ponce, Rafael Dejesus, Eddie Torres, Phil Hernandez, Steve Kroon, Juan Luis Guerra, etc.
In addition to being Rubén Blades pianist, arranger and musical director, Oscar Hernández has enjoyed a prolific musical career recording and performing with such world renown artists as Latin music king Tito Puente, Queen of Salsa Music Celia Cruz, Latin Pop Star Julio Iglesias, Juan Luis Guerra, Ray Barreto, Earl Klugh, Dave Valentin, Johnny Pacheco, Ismael Miranda, Pete “Conde” Rodríquez, Oscar De’ Leon, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, “Libre” “Grupo Folkorico Experimental “, Willie Colón, Kirsty MacColl, etc. Oscar’s musical exploits include working as Musical Director / Conductor, arranging and producing the music for “The Capeman,” pop-rock icon Paul Simon’s Broadway musical.
Oscar is also the music producer of “The Capeman” cast recording. Oscar was Musical Director / Arranger for the hit shows “Quén Mató a Hector Lavoe” and “La Lupe” at the 47th Street Theater. He was also, Music Supervisor / Arranger for the show “Four Guys named Jose & Una Mujer named María” Oscar also has released 2 CD’s as a solo artist, Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre, titled “The Art of Latin Jazz” and “Love The Moment ”on Origin Records. It is a true honor to have the donation of an incomparable musician like him in our museum. Thanks, Oscar!
Another of the great figures of the Spanish Salsa Harlem Orchestra is Luisito Quintero, the timbalero from Venezuela. Luisito Quintero was born in Caracas, Venezuela where he had his first contact with music. Cultural influences of Afro-Venezuelan rhythms were always present at home. His father, a highly respected percussionist, taught and encouraged Luisito to play the timpani in his teens.
Quintero continued to refine his playing level with the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, where his technique for playing the timpani soon caught the attention of his colleagues. Subsequently, he joined the popular music groups Guaco and the Trabuco Venezolano and traveled with Oscar D ‘León with whom he achieved an important international projection. The live performances, recordings and projects in which he has participated are countless.
He has made his mark as a percussionist with figures such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Richard Bona, Jack Dejonette, Willie Colón, George Benson, Natalie Cole, Herbie Hancock, Nuyorican Soul, Masters at Work, and of course, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Luisito is part of the group Elements of life, with whom he has toured for the last years.
The band has shared stages with major artists in the market such as Robert Plant, Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys, performing at festivals such as Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, Roskilde in Denmark, Blue Note in Japan, Jazz Cafe in London, England and the legendary New Morning Cafe in Paris, France. Without a doubt, an impressive and worth mentioning career.
And if we are talking about incredible careers in this edition, I can’t stop talking about Adalberto Santiago and the new projects of the 60th anniversary with great artists of the genre. This his time I can tell you about Cuco Peña’s string arrangements, the participation of Nelson Jaimes and, of course, the help of my friend Freddy Miranda. At 83 years old, he is still in the rumba. There is less and less to show the world this historical piece for the world of salsa.
Johnny Cruz and Adalberto Santiago
I also want to remember Raphy Leavitt, on the fifth anniversary of her death on August 5. In 1970 Leavitt organized an orchestra that should have a different sound and style. He wanted to select the repertoire of songs of the orchestra with a particular, positive, social and even philosophical message; and founded “La Selecta”. Since its inception, La Selecta has featured Coamo-born Sammy Marrero as one of its singers.
Marrero, who has always been strongly influenced by the music of the Puerto Rican jíbaro, had an opportunity to teach his dramatic singing style in his first hits as the almost hymn “Jíbaro Soy”, a very patriotic and unusual Puerto Rican song, “Payaso”, and “The Good Shepherd”. However, it is in the band’s signature song, “La Cuna Blanca,” that Marrero’s voice is for the most part associated.
In 1978, Leavitt discovered a young singer named Tony Vega, who became a legend among salsa singers on his own merit. Raphy Leavitt and La Selecta were responsible for the introduction of salsa in many countries. In the 1980s, Leavitt became an independent producer and produced two albums for Bobby Valentine.
In the 1990s, he established his record recording company, R.L. Records. The company’s first production was the album titled “Provocame,” which became a hit in Puerto Rico, the United States, and South America.
In 1978, Leavitt discovered a young singer named Tony Vega, who became a legend among salsa singers on his own merit. Raphy Leavitt and La Selecta were responsible for the introduction of salsa in many countries. Raphy passed away in Miami as a result of an operation of the hip prosthesis that had been installed due to an accident in 1972, and that he had become infected. Leavitt passed away in his sleep. Raphy will always be endorsers of the Salsa Museum with the clown suit of its 25th anniversary.
I also want to thank the constant and significant support for the Museum, from my friend Sully Díaz, who as endorser of the museum, is always working to promote and make our work reach more people. Sully was born in New York, the daughter of Sephardic parents from Puerto Rico. She began her career as a model, and at the age of 17 she began acting in Spanish soap operas, making herself a well-known figure on television in Puerto Rico.
In 1983 she became popular throughout Latin America with the role of Coralito, in the telenovela of the same name. From that moment on, Sully was known as “the queen of Puerto Rican soap operas.” In the early 1990s, Sully moved to Hollywood and appeared on various television shows as a guest star and worked on a few movies.
Johnny Cruz y Sully Diaz
In the mid-1990s, Sully joined four other Latina women (Dyana Ortelli, Marilyn, Ludo Vika, and Lydia Nicole) in a comedy group called “The Hot & Spicey Mamitas”. They sold out at several Los Angeles comedy clubs. They recorded a CD live called simply The Hot & Spicey Mamitas.
In 2002 Sully appeared in the play La Lupe: My Life, My Destiny, in which she played the Cuban singer La Lupe. Shortly after the execution of this work, Sully made her own production of La Reina, La Lupe. This work toured all of Puerto Rico and was a great success in Florida. That same year, she starred in the Puerto Rican thriller “Cuéntame tu pena”, in which she plays Isadora, a radio host who receives a call from a woman who is killed while on the air.
In 2004 Sully toured with Gilberto Santa Rosa in a play called “The True Story of Pedro Navaja.” In 2009 Sully appeared in the movie Princess Protection Program as Reina Sofía, along with Selena Gómez and Demi Lovato.
Papo Rosario and Isidro Infante
Recently, Papo Rosario released his new single “Gracias” produced by arranger and musician Isidro Infante. Rosario appreciates being alive and being 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 on high. Rosario, who retired in 2019 from the group considered the “University of Salsa”, El Gran combo de Puerto Rico, after having an accident and presenting health problems, affirms that he already feels ready to resume his musical career with the Launch of his first solo production by producer Isidro Infante. I wish you success in this new beginning.
The invitation to tune in to the new Fm / Internet radio station on Live365.com: Salsagallery continues. Great music, artist interviews and much more.
At the Spanish Harlem Salsa Gallery Museum we are happy to affirm that New York City is preparing to resume its activities little by little. We hope to have more news soon and that we can return to normal soon.
By Johnny Cruz, ISM Correspondent, New York, New York City
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