In celebration of its fifteen-year anniversary, two-time Grammy Award–winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO) is proud to announce the release of its aptly titled sixth album, Anniversary, due out on April 16. On Anniversary, the powerhouse thirteen-piece, all-star salsa big band demonstrates why they are “the leading light of the salsa reconstruction movement” (Newsday) by doing what they do best: hard-hitting, no-holds-barred New York salsa that is both contemporary and reverent to its rich musical history.
Since its inception, SHO, under the direction of pianist, composer, and arranger Oscar Hernández, has earned its reputation as the true voice of the barrio with intricate arrangements and pulsating rhythms that are steeped in the authentic salsa tradition. Their high-energy performances have delighted audiences across the globe from Asia to Australia, from Latin America to Europe. Grounded in the past but with a focused eye on the future, SHO continues to play an integral role in ensuring salsa dura (“hard salsa”) is not just alive but a thriving musical force. “Over the course of fifteen years, the consistent thread in each of our records has been the hard-core rhythm, sophisticated arrangements and a lot of care toward producing quality music with high integrity for our genre,” says Hernández.
Each member of SHO has a significant connection to the authentic salsa tradition. It begins with Hernández, who has long been considered one of the most prominent musicians on the Latin, salsa, and Latin-jazz music scene. Hernández’s musical legacy can be traced back to the 1970s, a time in which he performed with a who’s who of salsa legends, including Tito Puente, Machito, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Rubén Blades, Conjunto Libre, and Willie Colón. Later, Hernández went on to become the musical director for Paul Simon as well as the orchestrator and arranger for Gloria Estefan.
Along with showcasing the vocal prowess of longtime members Marco Bermúdez and Carlos Cascante, Anniversary displays the talents of one of Latin music’s most promising up-and-coming stars in vocalist and flutist Jeremy Bosch. On his recording debut, the twenty-seven-year-old Bosch contributes, in the words of Hernández, an “instant new dynamic and energy to the band.” One of Bosch’s brightest vocal moments can be heard on the album’s second offering “Yo Te Prometo” and his virtuosic flute playing can be heard on “Goza el Ritmo.”
While the band’s previous album featured jazz greats Chick Corea and Joe Lovano, Anniversary allows the band members to speak for themselves over the course of thirteen lively tracks. Standout moments include the album opener, “Esa Nena,” which swings to no end while highlighting the group’s signature sophisticated arrangements, and Hernández’s “Goza el Ritmo,” which will instantly bring listeners to their feet. Other noteworthy flashes include three modern arrangements of salsa classics: the bolero “La Media Vuelta” is reworked in a salsa style featuring three-part harmonies and a simmering brass section, while “Y Deja” (Rubén Blades / Willie Colón) and “Guaracha y Bembé” (Joe Cuba / Cheo Feliciano) are given contemporary updates with a fresh flair. On all their recordings, SHO includes some Latin jazz. This time, jazz trumpet legend Randy Brecker is a featured guest on Hernández’s original song “Somos Uno.”
Produced by Hernández and coproduced by SHO trombonist and 2018 Grammy nominee Doug Beavers, Anniversary builds on the dynamic legacy built by their previous five releases, which have garnered four Grammy nominations and two wins (in 2004 for sophomore album, Across 110th Street, and again in 2010 for Viva la Tradición). Considered “virtuosic journeymen who are one of New York’s great musical resources” (New York Times), Spanish Harlem Orchestra has expanded greatly from its home turf of Harlem to some of the world’s premier stages, including the Sydney Opera House, the Playboy Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, and many others.
They make you get up and dance, tap into the good natured, communal spirit characteristic of salsa at its timeless best
—Los Angeles Times
The best thing at the Newport Jazz Festival was the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
—New York Times
Spanish Harlem Orchestra will be a bounty for both wallflowers and hip shakers.
—Time Out New York