Larry Harlow Salsa Legend
THE SALSA FOUNDERS FATHERS

Larry Harlow

"El judio maravilloso"
Interview by Paolo "Pachanga"
May 2006


Larry Harlow tribute


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Larry HarlowLatin LegendSon MontunoSalsa Guaguanco in New YorkConjunto ArsenioFania all Starsestrellas de fania
Pachanga
As one of the founding fathers of salsa, to write an hypothetical encyclopedia of latin dance music is necessary to take into consideration the founding fathers opinion of the genre, please explain: Is salsa a musical genre or a term that includes many genres?
Larry
Harlow
Salsa music is a combination of Afrocuban dance music and NY Jazz and poetry. It is truly and art form and will Never die.
Pachanga
Tell us about your musical formation,when you were very young; did you liked rock? Jazz? How and why you landed into latin music? I heard cubans were the center of the dance music in NYC scene back in the 50’s, did you go to the live shows? Who was your favorite on those times?
Larry
Harlow
I was brought up in a very musical household. All musicians. I was trained classically but wanted to be a Jazzer. I went to High School in Spanish Harlem and got hooked on Latin Rhythms as a teenager.Went to all Jazz shows and concerts and listened to Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Coltrane.
Pachanga
Did your interest in Cuban music take you Cuba in the late 50’s? were you a fan of Arsenio Rodriguez and Chapotín? Tell us about the dance scene in Cuba? Did it compare to the NY dance scene? Did they play the same music?
Larry
Harlow
Afrer playing and jamming with Afroamerican Latin bands and small groups in High School I learned how to dance and startd going to the Palladium Ballroom in NYC. On a Christmas Vacation from first year in College I went to Havana on a vacation to check out the "Real deal" The bands in Cuba were based on "SON Montuno" and were easier to dance to for the clave was so strong.
Pachanga
As a pianist who was your role model or mentor?
Larry
Harlow
I listened to Noro Morales, Peruchin, Machito Orq. Early Tito Puente as well as all of the Cuban bands and became a record collestor of Cuban music.
Pachanga
When you returned to the US on 59, were you already planning to start your own orchestra?
Larry
Harlow
No, I was still learning and played for several years with small groups in NYC as well as the Catskill Mountians during the summers.
Pachanga
From the 60's to the present there's a log history and a lot have changed, the new generations have changed and with them the new musicians, they way they play and make music and their motivations. As one of the founding fathers of that musical movement from the 60's in NYC how are you living with the changes? An example is the commercial music that is moving further away from the initial fundaments that your generation transmitted to them?
Larry
Harlow
I believe that Latin music comes in cycles of 6-7 years and changes according to what is happening politically and socially in the states. For example in the early 60's it was MAMBO, then late 60's the Bugaloo, then 70's Salsa Dura then late 70's Latin Hussle continuing with the 80's Salsa Romantica(Monga). Now the Reageton and ther half assed mix of regaeton and Salsa that they are trying to do now... But through it all Salsa Dura (La Verdad) is always here and will never go away.. many radio stations in the US have converted their programming to Salsa of the 70's and all the re-releases of Fania era are coming out once again with remaster, great packaging product and are all selling very well.
Pachanga
A lot of changes also happened in Cuba, they renewed their tradition by the end of the 80's, with a new generation of musicians that is trasmitting the tradition of clave, Son and Rumba in a more audible style, they call it Timba, what is your opinion about it?
Larry
Harlow
Well Timba is for Cubans. No one here in the US knows how to dance it and they avoid it as much as possible... I can take it or leave it.
Pachanga
In your opinion who is making good music in P.R. and NYC?
Larry
Harlow
The best bands still are Harlow's Latin Legends, Eddie Palmieri, Pacheco (when he works) and the new Spanish Harlem Orchestra. The younger bands don't seem to be creating. I rarely see a new young sonero around that has potential.
Pachanga
Talking about keyboards, if a young pianist wants to learn how to play Montuno, who he should listen and study according to your experience to learn the fundamentals? Can you name some young promising pianist and why?
Larry
Harlow
Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Papo Lucca, Oscar Hernandez and myself.
Pachanga
The different way of playing Montuno if we compare today's Cubans with the NY musicians, according to some they remain linked to the tradition of the 50's. Many Cuban musicians listen to salsa produced in P.R. and NY are interested in it because it feels like the music. What is your opinion?
Larry
Harlow
They have no choice, for Salsa dura came from the son montuno. We are continuing the Cuban tradition of son.
Pachanga
There is a pianist named Billy Wolfer who says he fell in love with cuban music after seeing a Chucho Valdes in a live show. Now he's traveling to Cuba and recently released a proyect name Mamborama a record series where many of the best salseros of Cuba's present era. Are you familiar with the music from Cuba at the present, do you like it?
Larry
Harlow
Bill Wolfer is a wonderful musician and anything he does is worth listening to. But it is not my speciality and really not "SALSA".
Pachanga
In the 60's you worked with the best Cuban musicians in NYC, your first recording was recorded with a Cuban vocalist named Felo Brito and later you worked with Monguito, Justo Betancourt, Celia Cruz, Chocolate Armenteros and many more, your Tribute to Arsenio is one of the salsa fundamentals, a recording were you express your musical roots. If you had the time and opportunity to record with some of the musicians that actually live in Cuba, who would you pick?
Larry
Harlow
Adalberto Alvarez, Issac Delgado, Paulito, Candido Fabré, etc etc etc . There are so many great ones.
Pachanga
Do you still have musical dreams on the drawer, the kind that you haven't been able to achieve?
Larry
Harlow
I have been working on doing a Broadway musical called "Mamboland" a show based on the times of the Palladium (1962). In English but very Salsa dance oriented. It is my dream to some day bring this to the stage as well as the movie screen. Also to to re-invent Hommy, a Latin Opera with an updated cast.
Pachanga
Talking about an encyclopedia, here in Europe there is a lack of knowledge about Latin Jazz, it might be because people first experience the dance music, many people still confuse Mambo, Descarga and Latin Jazz..I know they are related, you are a Maestro please help us understand the difference between them.
Larry
Harlow
That is difficult to explain quickly... Mambo is afro cuban dance music, Descarga is Afro cuban jam sessions with no reat arrangments and lots of solos, and Latin Jazz is Jazz with Latin Rhythms in the percussion section ... Simply stated...
Pachanga
When you went to Cuba it was the times of the Cachao descargas,did you get to go to one? Tell us about Cuban descargas...
Larry
Harlow
There were descargas on every corner of Havana... The Cubans are great musicians and they are the roots of All Latin Music whether it be son, guaracha, descarga or bolero.. My being there was going to school and learning the roots of the music from the bottom up. I became a santero (30 years ago) because of the music and dance, soooooooooooo.
Pachanga
Do musicians in NY have descargas like in the old times? Is there in the city a place you can recommend to music lovers, were the musicians hang out after the shows to descargar?
Larry
Harlow
The last 10 years things have been getting worse in the NYC area.. There are few clubs to play and the rents and very high and it it difficult to stay in business... The best places are in small bars where you can here the best musicians at a small price. Uptown manhatten is best...
Pachanga
Talking about Latin Jazz, Mario Bauzà role in the US 40's, Chano Pozo's inclusion into Dizzy Gillespie's band, to find tumbao de congas with american Jazz, do you think it would have happened anyway? Do you think Mario Bauzá was the key to the success of Mambo USA? How about Machito and the contribution of this geniuses music history of all ages?
Larry
Harlow
Mario Bauzà is responsable for mixing american jazz with Latin music. Machito was only the front man of the orq but Bauzà was the real leader and musician in the group. He was the first to come there to the US and intergrate Jazz and Latin music abd played Trumpet and saxaphone equally well as well as writing great arrangments and songs.
Pachanga
Talk to me about your present projects, tell me about your Latin Legends Band, the gathering of some of the best Salsa Gorda musicians.
Larry
Harlow
I started the Latin Legends Band with the late Ray Barretto and we picked the best musicians that we liked to play with .. Ray went on to play Latin Jazz and I contimued with the Legends. Basically it is a 5 horn band with 2 tpts, 2 bns and a Bari Sax along with Bobby Sanabria on Drums and timbales, Chembo Corniel, congas and Louie Bauzo on bongos and bata. I have 2 great vocalists in Luisito Rosario and Emo Luciano and we add guest artists such as , Alfredo De La Fe, Junior Gonzalez, Adalberto Santiago, Frankie Vasquez, Yomo Toro , Nicky Marrero etc etc as requested by the promoters. We work all over the world, bringing great Salsa dance music wherever we go.
Pachanga
In July you will be touring Europe, the first three dates in Italy: Milano, Torino y Roma, after that Germany, Holland, France, Spain and the Canary Islands, which musicians are coming with you and the Latin Legends?
Larry
Harlow
Lewis Kahn, Joe Fiedler, Richie Viruet, Mac Gollehon, Luisito Rosario, Emo Luciano, Eddie Guagua Rivera, Louie Bauzo, Bobby Sanabria, Chembo Corniel, Frank Fontaine, Robert Crawford.
Pachanga
The Band is a stars reunion, I was lucky to play piano for Yomo Toro for a while in the 80's, he used to tell me that to become a good pianist I must learn to play Bolero, later I would eat up the Salsa, certainly Bolero is an harmonically rich and complex genre, magic. Which Boleros you always liked your favorites?
Larry
Harlow
I do not have a favorite Bolero and play very few.
Pachanga
If you move to a deserted island, list the names of recordings you would like to take with you?
Larry
Harlow
Arsenio Rodriguez, Chappotin and Cunì, Tito Puente Dance Mania, Orq Aragon, Pacheco and some Fania All Stars.
Pachanga
If you still have space for three more recordings which one you pick from the list:
- Adalberto Alvarez
- Manolito y su Trabuco
- Bamboleo
- Irakere
- Spanish Harlem Orchestra
- Tipica 73
- Sonora Ponceña
- Eddie Palmieri
Larry
Harlow
Palmieri, Ponceña and Adalberto Alvarez.
Pachanga
Well Larry it's been an honor and a pleasure to interview El Judío Maravilloso, would you like to send a message to the European lovers of good music and lovers from around the world.
Larry
Harlow
Sigue con las Salsa Dura y picante y Que viva la musica nuestra... Come see us in Europe...

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Descarga Cubana: Larry Harlow Interview