The Bottom Line
Spanish Harlem Orchestra's 3rd album, United We Swing is a tribute to the smooth big band sounds of 70s Nuyorican salsa and other afro-cuban rhythms. The band is comprised of musicians that have been part of that musical scene for a long time and the music is full-bodied and true to the genre. If you like the music of that period, you'll find this album a retro work of art.
- Great music / vocals in retro style Nuyorican afro-cuban music
- Could use a little rough edge to cut all that smooth sound
- 13 tracks of 70s style big band salsa
- Guest Paul Simon in an arrangement of "Late In The Evening"
- Released by Six Degrees Records
Guide Review - CD Review: Spanish Harlem Orchestra - United We Swing
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, under the direction of Oscar Hernandez, brings back the classing sounds of salsa and other afro-cuban rhythms with their 3rd album, United We Swing. SHO boasts an impressive list of musicians: vocalist Ray de la Paz, Jimmy Bosch on trumpet, George Delgado on congas and Luisito Quintero on timabales. A total of 14 musicians bring energy and precision to a world-class orchestra.
Even though United We Swing is a retro piece, a tribute to the golden age of Nuyorican salsa, the songs are original and composed for the album. The band almost iconically captures the big band sound of the era, which is impressive but not surprising. Hernandez spearheaded Ruben Blades' band in the 80s and most of the other musicians have played with many of the Fania greats.
There's all kinds of rhythms on this album. The requisite mambo, rumba and son are there, but there's also a really good plena, "Plena Con Sabor" and an excellent danzon, "Danzon For My Father", both composed and arranged by Oscar Hernandez. The last track, "Late in the Evening" features Paul Simon who worked with Hernandez on Simon's Capeman score. My personal favorite is "En El Tiempo del Palladium", a tribute to Manhattan's Palladium Ballroom.
For all its virtues - and there are many - the album is almost too smooth. It's like looking at a beautiful face with no flaws, no imperfections. I miss the touch of a rough edge to give the music a bit more character, although that might defeat what the band's trying to do on this CD.
Because for all the times I've listened to this album, I've yet to get up and feel compelled to dance.