When last heard from, the salsa powerhouse Spanish Harlem Orchestra was celebrating fifteen years of playing together with Anniversary (ArtistShare, 2018). There have always been elements of Latin jazz in the group's music, and Artistic Director Oscar Hernandez is a noted Latin jazz pianist, so it was only a matter of time until they presented a full program of it. In addition to his arrangements, Hernández contributed several compositions, and is a prominent soloist.
The band contains some strong jazz soloists. Opening track "Ritmo De Mi Gente" has a catchy rhythm which inspires flautist Jeremy Bosch and the leader on piano: both contribute solos on several other tracks as well. Naturally there are percussion solos too, from Luisito Quintero's timbales and George Delgado's congas. Good as the band is on its own, the excitement is taken up a notch by an impressive roster of guest soloists. Saxophonist Bob Mintzer turns up the heat on "Bobo;" the standard "Invitation" is sung by Kurt Elling, and also features alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trading fours with Elling's scat singing at the end of the solo section.
"Las Palmas" features a riveting Tom Harrell trumpet solo; "Silent Prayers" is led by soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, with solos led off by Jimmy Haslip's lyrical bass, followed by Bosch's flute and Liebman's sopranoone of the most striking of Hernández's melodies. "Round Midnight" could easily have been the ballad of the set, but is given an effective up-tempo treatment instead. "Latin Perspective" features vibraphonist Joe Locke. He and Hernández must have hit it off, because the track is followed by "Joe and Oscar," a brief duet credited to them both.
"Descarga De Jazz" closes the album with a feature for the entire orchestra, including the three vocalists (who solo along with the horns, as well as providing a rousing chorus), an exciting conclusion to another excellent outing from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
Ritmo De Mi Gente; Bobo; Invitation; Acid Rain; Las Palmas; Silent Prayers; Round Midnight; Fort Apache; Latin Perspective; Joe And Oscar; Descarga De Jazz.