Oscar Hernández, Spanish Harlem Orchestra & The Latin Jazz Project

in Music/Notes From A Native Daughter by

It is fitting to the max that on the weekend of the land’s (arguably, of course) highest holiday I get to write about Oscar Hernández. He is a “one-and-only” type of artist that symbolizes several important things.

First, Oscar is another great Puerto Rican from the Bronx. His DNA carries pure melaza in white skin and piercing blue-green eyes that belie his innate percussive rhythm and prodigious way of learning to play the piano. And yet, Oscar is very much de la mata, made of roots so strong as a survival substance that has made him a legend in his own terms and style.

His musical trajectory symbolizes the Spanish saying, plantar bandera. Meaning everywhere he goes he shines like Armstrong on the moon. From Baretto’s “Rican Struction,” to his tenure with Ruben Blades and Seis del Solar, to Spanish Harlem Orchestra and everything in between and after, Oscar stands.

Spanish Harlem Orchestra is a pinnacle of artistic symbolism. While there is indeed a place called “Spanish Harlem,” SHO transcends. The orchestra is about all the Spanish Harlems in the U.S. and beyond that carry legacy. In Oscar’s case music from the heart of the Afro-Caribbean ancestry that permeates the entire Northern and Southern American Continents. And this is grand. Music after all makes the people come together.

The Latin Jazz Project goes a step further in bringing people together. The Afro sounds of the Caribbean and American Jazz integrate like when you’re making bread. And the all-stars of The Latin Jazz Project fine-tuned an hour+ of old meets new styles with the signature flair of SHO.

The Latin Jazz Project features Kurt Elling, Bob Franceschini, Tom Harrell, Jimmy Haslip, and Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Jonathan Powell, Michael Rodriguez, and Miguel Zenón.

The usual suspects Marco Bermúdez, Doug Beavers, Noah Bless, Jeremy Bosch, Jorge Castro, Carlos Cascante, Hector Colón, George Delgado, Mitch Frohman, Jerry Madera, Luisito Quintero, Maneco Ruiz and are still on fire.

The Latin Jazz Project is beautiful and close to my heart are the tracks “Acid Rain,” “Invitation,” “Las Palmas,” and “Latin Perspective,” (cool as hades this tune). And perhaps closest still is “Silent Prayers,” lovely and probably because the times call for them, a lot of silent prayers if the world wants to survive. A few snakes have lazed apples with the most venomous poison to lure weak ones into bitting sin and bring down paradise, the only one we have.

Live long and prosper.

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