Larry Harlow is a living legend. Depending on your musical tastes, that statement is either obnoxiously obvious or total news to you. The salsa pianist known as El Judio Maravilloso ("the marvelous Jew") grew up in New York and was a pioneer of salsa music in the '70s, along with his Fania Records cohort. Harlow has recorded with, performed with and produced all of the salsa greats from Ismael Miranda to Celia Cruz.
At age 71, there isn't much Harlow hasn't accomplished musically, earning a lifetime achievement award from the Latin Grammys in 2008. Still, this nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn refuses to sit still or fade into the night.
So what's next for you?
Harlow: The big news. In 1977, I wrote a suite—a thing called the Salsa Suite, La Raza Latina. It's about an hour long with a 50-piece orchestra with strings and everything, and Ruben Blades sang lead on it when he was young. So Lincoln Center approached me to do a project. So I said, "I'd like to do La Raza Latina." So I dug up all the music and rearranged it. I said, "Let me get Ruben." So I wrote him an email. "Ruben, would you like to do this.” He says, "I'm interested."
But I got a 50-piece orchestra I'm going to conduct in Lincoln Center, outdoors, on August 14 of this year. It's a huge project, a good three or four months of preparation. Rehearsals start in July.
So it's just a one-off concert?
Harlow: I said, "You wanna take this on the road with me?" He said, "Nope, I'll only do one for you." So I call Louie Enrique and say, "Louie, you wanna do it?" He's like, "Yeaaah! I'm in!" He's a very good singer also.
So August 14 at Lincoln Center, then?
Harlow: Yes. I suggest you come early. We're gonna shoot in HD, four-camera shoot; we're not gonna put it out commercially, but at least we'll have it for posterity.
It's good to see you're still so active at 71.
Harlow: Well, I've been married several times, but I married a wonderful woman about 11 years ago who supports all the things I do and pushes me to do things like this. When you give back, you know, it makes you really feel good. When someone writes in, "Thank you for all the great music," that's better than a million dollars for me. As long as my health holds up, I'll be around.
A lot of this stuff was happening before the economy crashed.
Harlow: Yeah. But tropical music will never die. South America is just booming. You go to Venezuela, Colombia, Peru. They have 200 radio stations playing salsa music. You go to New York, there's one radio station playing salsa music. And if anything is in a foreign language, the American stations won't play it. So it's difficult. But I have a lot of fun. I'm still here.
Written by Ajay Miranda
To read the full interview, go to Austin Vida.
Also, don’t forget about Larry Harlow’s Free Show on Saturday, August 14th.
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