Oscar Hernandez, piano/arranger/composer/leader; Hector Colón, Jonathan Powell, & Manuel “Maneco” Ruiz, trumpet/flugelhorns; Doug Beavers & Noah Bless, trombones; Jorge Castro & Mitch Frohman, baritone saxophone; Luisito Quintero, timbales/shekere/shakers/chimes; George Delgado, congas; Jorge Gonzalez, bongos; Gerardo “Jerry” Madera, bass; Jeremy Bosch, flute/vocal; Marco Bermudez & Carlos Cascante, vocals. SPECIAL GUESTS: Kurt Elling, vocals; Joe Locke, vibraphone; Jimmy Haslip, bass; Tom Harrell, Jonathan Powell & Michael Rodriguez, trumpets; Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Bob Franceschini & Miguel Zenon, saxophones.
Opening with an original composition by producer/arranger, Oscar Hernandez, “Ritmo De Mi Gente” dances off my Cd player. Orchestra leader, Hernandez, is featured on piano and has arranged this up-tempo, hip-swaying tune. Jeremy Bosch is brightly featured on the flute. For the past seventeen years, this three-time Grammy Award winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO) has earned their reputation as a premier salsa ensemble and lauded for their ability to blend their Latin cultural music with jazz. The director and orchestra leader, Oscar Hernandez, is celebrated by many as one of the most important Latin jazz pianists of his generation.
“We have always been steeped in the tradition of Latin jazz. It makes sense for us to finally get to this point. I couldn’t be more proud of this project and this band,” Hernandez elaborated in his liner notes.
Track two, “Bobo,” features L. A. based, big band leader, Bob Mintzer, lending his talents on saxophone. On the familiar and beautiful standard, “Invitation,” the distinctive vocals of Kurt Elling are prominent, with a rich saxophone solo by Miguel Zenon. The orchestra propels these songs with excitement and percussive brilliance by Luisito Quintero, George Delgado and Jorge Gonzalez. Throughout this production, the surprise appearances of several iconic musicians add credence and icing to this sweet, musical cake. You will hear former Yellow Jackets member, Jimmy Haslip, on electric bass during their arrangement of “Silent Prayers” along with the iconic Dave Liebman on saxophone. The energetic arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” becomes a Salsa stage to feature the trumpet of Jonathan Powell. All in all, here is a lovely Latin album featuring tight, well-rehearsed arrangements, stellar orchestra members and a star-studded list of special guests. What’s not to love? This could easily become another Grammy Award Winning album for Oscar Hernandez and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.