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  • Writer's pictureSergio Ribeiro

Orquesta Harlow - Cari Caridad

Larry Harlow is a true living legend of Afro-Cuban music. Born in Brooklyn, New York, his early influences were his father Buddy, a professional bass player, and his mother Rose, an opera singer. A graduate of the prestigious NY High School of Music and Art, he excelled on oboe, flute, bass and the instrument that he is most famous for, the piano. Although jazz and the stylings of Art Tatum were his first love, his growing exposure as a teenager to the music and culture of the New York Latino community fascinated him. This led to a trip to Cuba in 1957 where he began a two year intense study of Afro-Cuban music in all of its manifestations; from West African based liturgical repertoire to popular dance styles. Upon his return to New York he quickly made a name for himself as a top bandleader and was quickly signed by the new Fania Record Company, the most important label in the history of Latin music. “El Judio Maravilloso”, as he is affectionately called by his colleagues, completely revolutionized what is known today SALSA, developing the explosive trumpet / trombone sound of the contemporary Latino bands of the time.

Harlow studied audio engineering at the Institute of Audio Research in NYC in the early 1970’s and became the leading Latin record producer in the world. For Fania Records alone he produced more than 250 albums for various artists and over 50 albums as a leader, including the Grammy nominated masterpiece, “La Raza Latina, a Salsa Suite” in 1978 which was the first serious treatment of the genre; tracing the music’s diaspora and evolution from West Africa to Southern Spain, through the Caribbean and eventually New York City. The first Latin opera ever written entitled “Hommy” with lyrics penned by Henny Alvarez was performed to standing room only crowds for two shows each at Carnegie Hall and Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He also co-produced, wrote music for and starred in “Our Latin Thing” and “Salsa”, two of most the definitive documentaries on Afro-Cuban based music in New York City.

Mr. Harlow, as a Governor of the NY chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), was responsible for making the organization take notice of the contributions of Latin musicians, which helped to establish the first Latin categories in the Grammy Awards and eventually the Latin Grammys as well. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and received a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Larry holds a BA in Music from Brooklyn College and a Masters Degree in Philosophy from the New School of Social Research in New York City. He still performs regularly with a variety of lineups and formations, most notably the Latin Legends of Fania.

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