Spanish Harlem Orchestra, the three-time Grammy® winning Salsa and Latin Jazz band, sets the gold standard for excellence in authentic, New York style, hard core salsa.
Whether in a concert hall or at an outdoor jazz festival, there is no easing you in, they come at you full force, from start to finish. Their energy on stage and their rich sound and musical precision leave audiences mesmerized until the last note is played. With an unwavering respect for the music’s storied history, the ensemble’s thirteen world-class musicians and vocalists come together to create an unparalleled musical experience.
Now celebrating 20 years of excellence, SHO, as they are known to fans, is dedicated to the sounds of the barrio (Spanish Harlem, NYC). Their music is characterized by the raw, organic and vintage sound defined by the genre. They are on a mission to keep the musical legacy of salsa dura (hard salsa) alive and expand its audience to those who love great music, not just Latin music. Grounded in the past, while focused on the future, they strive to keep the music relevant, creating a unique and fresh approach.
With eight CD’s and five Grammy nominations, this powerhouse orchestra is aware that it is crucial to continually push themselves and raise the bar. Their 2018 release “Anniversary” won the 2019 Grammy® Award for “Best Tropical Album”. On their latest 2022 release, Imágenes Latinas, SHO stays true to their purpose with a fresh slate of new songs and arrangements dedicated to the memory of iconic New York salsa and Latin Jazz group, Conjunto Libre and its members Andy Gonzalez, Jerry Gonzalez, Barry Rogers, and leader Manny Oquendo.
After two decades of session work, composing, arranging and producing, band leader Oscar Hernández was approached by producer Aaron Levinson in 2000 about the idea of assembling and recording a Latin jazz orchestra. The result was Un Gran Dia en el Barrio, the 2002 debut recording from Spanish Harlem Orchestra that scored a Grammy nomination for “Best Salsa Album” and a Latin Billboard® Award for Salsa Album of the Year. Based on the success of their first CD, Hernández and SHO began touring and wowing audiences all over the world.
Their first Grammy win came in 2004 with their follow-up album, Across 110th Street, a reference to Harlem’s southern boundary. Featuring Ruben Blades as guest artist, the combination proved to be explosive and featured Blades singing in the style of salsa dura that many of his fans longed to hear.
Released in 2007, United We Swing earned yet another Grammy nomination. The album features Paul Simon as special guest singing a burning rendition of his hit "Late in The Evening" – SHO style. Their second Grammy® winning album, Viva La Tradicion, was released in 2010 on the Concord® Picante imprint. Their 2015 self-titled release Spanish Harlem Orchestra on Artistshare® featured jazz legends Chick Corea and Joe Lovano, and their most recent release Anniversary (Artistshare), featuring trumpet great Randy Brecker, was a winner at this year’s 61st Annual Grammy® Awards.
Spanish Harlem Orchestra expanded their repertoire in 2020 with the release of The Latin Jazz Project. After flashing glimpses of their Latin Jazz prowess over the course of their previous six recordings, SHO goes ‘all in’ on The Latin Jazz Project, their first full length Latin jazz release. A litany of top-tier jazz artists join the ensemble as featured guests soloists: Kurt Elling, Miguel Zenon, Tom Harrell, Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Joe Locke, and others.
Now with Imágenes Latinas in 2022, the first SHO release under Hernández’ new imprint Ovation Records, Spanish Harlem Orchestra stays true to their purpose to honor the tradition of great Latin music, being hailed as “the leading light of the salsa reconstruction movement” (Newsday).
Oscar Hernández has long been considered one of the most prominent pianists and arrangers in the Salsa & Latin Jazz scene. He is all about tradition. Born into a large Puerto Rican family living in the Bronx, it was the nearby Spanish Harlem neighborhood that shaped his cultural musical sensibilities. The soundtrack to this bustling enclave in the ‘60s, emanating from any given window on any given day, was a mix of Latin Jazz and American pop radio.
Hernandez started playing the trumpet at age twelve; he switched to piano shortly thereafter. By the time he finished his teen years, he was making a living as a professional musician and gigging with some of the most talented Latin Jazz artists of the ‘70s. He spent much of the ‘80s producing, arranging and playing piano for Panamanian vocalist Rubén Blades while simultaneously leading his own band, Seis del Solar. In the 90's Hernandez produced a recording titled "Dance City" which received a rave review in the NY Times and led Paul Simon to call him as arranger/producer & musical director for his Broadway show "The Capeman." Oscar also received acclaim as music arranger on Gloria Estefan’s hit 2015 Broadway musical “On Your Feet”.