Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Viva La Tradición

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Spanish Harlem Orchestra's fourth album, and its first in four years, puts the focus back on the group itself after previous albums with spotlights for Paul Simon and Rubén Blades, among others. Fittingly, it celebrates the rich tradition of salsa music, as heard on the second track, "Mi Herencia Latina," written by vocalist Willie Torres, who name-checks a parade of influences. (Torres knows something about salsa tradition: he's been part of the chorus for some of the best salseros going back to the early '60s, including Palmieri brothers Eddie and Charlie, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, and Celia Cruz, among others.) As usual, Oscar Hernández produces, writes, and arranges most of the tracks, and translating his vision falls to a group of standout instrumentalists: brass players led by trombonist Jimmy Bosch and trumpeter Hector Colón, Mitch Frohman on woodwinds, and percussionists Luisito Quintero (timbales), George Delgado (congas), and Jorge Gonzalez (bongos). The material includes everything a fan would expect: plenty of strong, durable salsa numbers, plus son and mixing it up in the middle, the bright and buoyant pachanga "Como Baila Mi Mulata" (another original composition and arrangement by Hernández, led by Frohman on flute).

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