Title: The Latin Jazz Project
Artist: Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Formats: CD (limited ed.), Digital
Release date: May 22, 2020
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO) has become a household name for salsa lovers and Latin jazz enthusiasts over the years. Founded in the early 2000s by bandleader Oscar Hernández and producer Aaron Levinson, SHO has accumulated several Grammy nominations and three Grammy Awards for their albums Across 110th Street (2004), Viva La Tradicion (2010), and Anniversary (2018). Known for their “dedication to the sounds of the barrio (Spanish Harlem NYC)” and their “mission to keep the musical legacy of salsa dura (hard salsa) alive,” SHO has become one of the standard representations of the New York style of salsa music.
Although their previous albums offered brief moments of SHO’s mastery in Latin jazz, their newest release, The Latin Jazz Project—produced by musical director Oscar Hernandez and co-producer Doug Beavers—is a full-blown Latin jazz excursion illustrating the orchestra’s command and expertise in this music genre.
Joined by prominent guest jazz artists such as Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Miguel Zenon, Kurt Elling, Tom Harrell, Jimmy Haslip, Jonathan Powell, Michael Rodrigeuz, Joe Locke, and Bob Franceschini, The Latin Jazz Project offers a collection of songs that blends SHO’s signature salsa dura sound with jazz aesthetics. The song selections include energetic uptempo renderings of “Invitation” and “Round Midnight,” as well as temperate and savory renditions of “Bobo” and “Silent Prayers” which illustrate SHO’s wide palate of musical dynamic expressions. Notable mentions are the thrilling and tasteful arrangements “Ritmo de Mi Gente” and “Descarga de Jazz” which feature SHO’s members prominently. Ultimately, The Latin Jazz Project is an intriguing album that serves as a superlative example of what happens when Latin jazz sensibilities are coupled with the jazz idiom.
Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste