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The Spanish Harlem Orchestra Across 110 ST Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

'The musicianship from a such a large band (13 members) is simply the best you can get..'

Alan Gregory 2004

Salsa may have its origins in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Latin America, but it was forged in New York City and that at least is where its heart survives. The lifeblood comes from the Spanish Harlem district and right in itscentre is 100 St. Below that is Tito Puente Blvd. By naming your band and second release in such a wayyou are putting out a statement of intent that you'll beplaying hard or Dura salsa, a classic sound which is steeped in the music of the Latin greats, from Tito Puente and Machito to the Fania All Stars.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra's first release, Un Gran Dia In El Barrio, was nominated for a Grammy in 2002 and had tracks like "Mama Guela" and "La Banda".Tunes which, I imagine, would have provoked the most outrageous dance steps from salseros. Certainly their new album is just as danceable. Tracks like "Cuanda Te Vea" connect instantly and are quite slick.This is no surprise becausethe arranger is a certain Gil Lopez who has experienceof workingfor just about everyone on the Latin scene. Others are like "Bailadores" which is punchier with a big sound and great singing by guest artist Ruben Blades and the coro (backing vocals). In fact the entire set is consistently tight and swinging. The musicianship from a such a large band (13 members) is simply the best you can get and artists like trombonist Jimmy Bosch and pianist Oscar Hernandez sound like they could deal with it in their sleep. Any arrangement or tempo is made to sound easy.

If you could pick the Orchestra up on something it wouldbe that the CDis formulaic and every other track starts to sound the same.Rarely do we hear something whichhas thatlittle extra musically. On the cha cha cha "Escucha El Ritmo", Oscar Hernandez gets to play some really nice montuno and jazz chops, "returning on Perla Morena", a real Latin Jazz stormer where all the artists' solos deliver.

Ruben Blades has never sounded better anddoes adda noteable edge when he appears. However, you do feelthathispresence as a guest artist is as much about the bandwanting to reach as wide a market as possible as it isfor musical reasons. But if this approach achieves success and they become the new Fania All Stars then good luck to them.

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