Orquesta Harlow – Salsa
The Salsa album is arguably Larry Harlow’s finest piece of work, out of the several dozen albums produced by the ultra-talented pianist, arranger, and bandleader. There are three or four cuts on this album that made it to number 1 on charts throughout Latin America. A fete rarely achieved. The first cut, “No Quiero” sets the tone for the rest of the album. The typically great work by Harlow’s vocalists instantly prepares you for a pleasant listening and dancing experience. The late, great Puerto Rican singer, Junior Gonzalez never sounded better as sonero. The clever arrangements and the phrasing of the horns is truly incredible. Especially during the mambo section which gives this cut a contrasting modern feel to it. The flute solos are outstanding, thanks to the unique talents of Johnny Pacheco. The rhythm, as usual, tight. The montuno sections morph back to the Cuban son sound that Harlow cherishes.
Arsenio Rodriguez’s fingerprints are all over this album. The great Cuban composer, tresista, and bandleader has always been idolized by Harlow. In fact, Arsenio is the composer of the first three cuts of this album, “No Quiero,” “La Cartera” and the wonderful son montuno “Popo Pa’ Mi.”
Like other great Afro-Cuban-loving musicians, Harlow spent a large amount of time in Cuba witnessing the finest interpreters of the Afro-son sounds first hand. Arsenio Rodriguez was an amazing songwriter of son montunos, perhaps the greatest ever, but it took someone outside of the Latin-Caribbean realm with an infatuation for Afro-Caribbean rhythms, to introduce it to salsa lovers everywhere. Besides Arsenio, Harlow idolized Beny More and world class flautist, Richard Egues, and watched their performances at every opportunity while residing in Cuba. Egues is songwriter of one of Harlow’s biggest hits, “El Paso De Encarnacion” which is also featured on this album. Eliseo Grenet’s composition, “No Hay Amigo” is another classic featured here. Of course, “La Cartera” is the perfect rendition of the son-charanga sound Harlow always strived for. Available in this powerful package as well.
Harlow was instrumental in introducing the bata drum to his recordings, expertly played on this album by Milton Cardona and Gene Golden. The rhythm section, featuring Pablo Rosario, Edwin Colon, and Tony Jimenez is superbly held together by the special talents of Eddie “Guagua” Rivera on bass. The clever Harlow horn arrangements are performed by Ray Maldonado, Ralph Castrella, Reinaldo Jorge and Lewis Kahn, who also fills in on violin. As usual, Harry Viggiano shines on various numbers playing tres and guitar. On flute we are treated to the talents of the great Johnny Pacheco and Charlie Miller. The coro as usual is on the money, led by Marcelino Guerra. And of course, Harlow’s leadership and the incredible piano solos is evident everywhere in this album. This is a classic album. This is Orchestra Harlow at its peak. The hypnotic, enjoyable Cuban culture is discernable throughout.This could possibly be the greatest manifestation of Afro- Cuban music ever recorded! —Bobby Marin