Oscar Hernandez, conductor of the Spanish Orchestra of Harlem, on the new album “Imágenes Latinas”
Released on May 20, “Imágenes Latinas” continues the tradition of excellence of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra by mixing salsa dura and jazz. In an interview with KNKX, Oscar Hernandez talked about the roots of the new album and some of his other projects.
The new album’s title track was originally written by Hernandez for Conjunto Libre, an influential group that incorporated jazz, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms. Leaders Manny Oquendo and Andy Gonzales encouraged band members to explore alternative sounds.
“There’s an indelible memory in my mind about that particular song, because we recorded it live,” Hernandez said. “It’s also a tribute to my association with Andy Gonzalez, Jerry Gonzalez and Manny Oquendo, because I was a founding member. Recording this song for the new album is kind of a way of saying thank you and giving them back. tribute as well. And to trombonist Barry Rodgers, who was instrumental in the concept of this particular song. I’m so happy to be able to honor people that mean a lot to me, that I love, and tip those people who were important in my training as a musician.”
“Conjunto Libre had a really big impact on a lot of musicians at that time in the 70s,” Hernandez continued. “They formulated their own sound and their own identity, and were at the forefront of making some really cool things happen in music, so I’m proud to have been a part of that.”
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra was founded in 2001 and began performing in 2002.
SPANISH ORCHESTRA OF HARLEM, ALBUM RELEASE “IMAGENES LATINAS”
“I’m really proud to have supported the band for 20 years and what we’ve accomplished,” Hernandez said. “We’ve traveled the world and won three Grammys. That says a lot about the music. It says a lot about maintaining the culture of this music and the tradition it’s steeped in.”
“I’m one of the few guys still around who can say he played with Machito, with Tito Puente, with Celia Cruz, with Ray Barretto,” Hernandez continued. “So that’s part of keeping this music alive with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. And I’m proud to be the bearer of that flame.”
Honoring the roots of music while allowing it to grow is important to Hernandez.
“It’s music that comes from a real place, that influences the rest of the world, with Fania Records and all the music that was happening in New York. I’m proud to have been a part of that and to continue to do it my own way with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.”
Hernandez is constantly composing, arranging and transcribing music. He is also in charge of the commercial management of the orchestra, from booking concerts to buying plane tickets.
His other projects include a collaboration with singer Margo Rey and with her Latin jazz ensemble Alma Libre, whose third album, “Visión”, received a 4-star review in Downbeat magazine.
Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre III ” Visión” Promotional Video
When he is not working, his family is his center of interest. And baseball.
“I’m a huge baseball fan,” confirms Hernandez. “I got the MLB package and I’m going to sit around for 3 hours and just like, get lost. I watch my beloved Yankees play, almost every day.”
Hernandez is looking forward to returning to Seattle’s Jazz Alley in July.
“Jazz Alley is a place that I love,” Hernandez said. “The band loves playing there. It’s a chance for an audience to come and see us up close and see exactly what we’re doing and feel the music. It’s one of the great venues and we have lucky to be there at least once a year.”
More information and tickets for the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at Jazz Alley are here.
Enter to win tickets to see the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at Jazz Alley on Thursday, July 14 here. The deadline for registration is July 3.