Fania Records Allstar Larry Harlow Performs with Students

By 
Allen Bush
October 19, 2010
Pioneering salsero Larry Harlow - pianist, songwriter, arranger, and Fania recording artist and producer - performs a concert of his many hits with a student group.

The Berklee College of Music Signature Series presents an evening with one of the most important figures for advancing Latin music in America—pianist, songwriter, arranger, and Fania recording artist and producer Larry Harlow. 

Larry Harlow Meets Berklee takes place Thursday, November 18, 8:15 p.m., at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets are $15 and $20 and are available at the BPC box office and at Ticketmaster online or at 800 745-3000. For more information visit berkleebpc.com or call 617 747-2261. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Harlow will perform with a group of Berklee faculty and students, directed by Oscar Stagnaro, professor of bass, and Matthew Nicholl, chair of contemporary writing and production. Students from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the United States will perform Harlow's salsa and Afro-Cuban classics "Arsenio," "La Cartera," and "Rumbambola," among others. 

For more than four decades, Harlow has remained one of salsa's most important figures. Many refer to the Brooklyn native as "El Judio Maravilloso," the marvelous Jew. Harlow heard his first Cuban five-stroke clave rhythms coming on recordings streaming from neighborhood storefronts. After attending the High School of Music and Art in Hamilton Heights, playing with Latin dance bands in the five boroughs, and studying at Brooklyn College, he followed the beat to Havana in the late 1950s, and became, as he tells it, "salsified." Two years later back in New York, he formed an orchestra that featured chords, rhythms, and beats he learned in Cuba. Harlow was at the forefront of the Afro-Cuban movement in New York City.   

Harlow signed with Fania Records upon the label's inception in 1964. With Fania, he recorded more than 45 classic albums under his own name. His album La Raza Latina, a Salsa Suite is considered a masterpiece and was nominated for a Grammy Award. In the early 1970s, he was the world's leading producer of Latin music records, and produced more than 250 albums for other artists on the Fania label. For years, he was the pianist and producer for the Fania All-Stars. In 2008, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Now 71, Harlow leads the Latin Legends band on tours, featuring many of his Fania labelmates, and collaborates with younger followers of his sound, including the Mars Volta and Grupo Fantasma.