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Arts & Culture

Spanish Harlem Orchestra Coming To The Aztec

Arts San Antonio is bringing in a big act to the newly re-opened Aztec Theatre. It’s the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. I asked their piano-playing band-leader, Oscar Hernandez, to describe their music.

“I guess it’s salsa music that’s based in New York City, steeped in the tradition of what salsa music was before it became salsa music back in the 50s, 60s and 70s," he said. "Spanish Harlem Orchestra is one of the finest music ensembles of any band, of any kind of music that you’ll hear anywhere in the world.”

He’s not just making big claims, either. These guys have the chops.

“We’re extremely proud of the track record that we’ve had now: 12 years with four CDs, four Grammy nominations and two Grammys won,” said Hernandez.

And now they’re coming to San Antonio on Friday night. He said their music hearkens back to 50s and 60s New York.

“The sum of the band is a raw, organic energy that is very much part of the dynamics of the music those days,” he said.

We spoke about the immigration aspect of the music. Hernandez said his neighborhood was full of first-generation immigrants from Puerto Rico and other places in the Caribbean. I noted to him that coming to a place that’s as tough and forbidding as New York City, I could imagine bringing my music along would make me feel as though I’d brought a little home with me. He agreed enthusiastically.

“That’s an excellent point, and that’s exactly correct because that was the one thing that maintained everybody together, through all social events," Hernandez said. "So it was a huge part of what was happening in terms of dynamics of Latino culture in New York City.”

He described the big band he's bringing to the Aztec to make that big sound.

“A 13-piece orchestra with three great singers up front, a five-piece horn section, and one of the best rhythm sections of this style of music that you’ll hear,” Hernandez said.

Watch the Spanish Harlem Orchestra perform: