Artist Profile – Larry Harlow

by Jeff Huang

One of the things I really love about salsa is its ability to bring people together – because no matter your race, your social or cultural background, once you are bitten by the salsa bug, those things no longer matter. In my own dancing journey I’ve had the pleasure of befriending many people that, without salsa as a medium, I would never have had the opportunity to; for that, I consider it a great equalizer in our society.

The featured artist today is a well-known salsa bandleader and a wonderful musician back in the golden age of salsa (1960s-1970s), but unlike most salsa artists, he is an American of Jewish descent. Larry Harlow is a perfect example that as long as the music plays in you, it does not matter where you start.

La Catera

Larry is the son of a musical family – his mother was an opera singer in New York, and his father a bandleader. Larry showed great talent in instruments at an early age, and his exposure to New York’s Latin quarters and its music led him to Cuba where he studied Afro-Cuban music extensively. The Cuban Revolution forced him back to the United States, where his talents led his Orquesta Harlow to become the second orchestra signed onto the Fania label in New York, the largest Latin record company of the era.

El Paso de Encarnacion

During his time with Fania, Larry produced over 106 albums for various artists, as well as 50 albums of his own. Larry became a pillar of the salsa music scene, credited for many important milestones in the evolution of Latin music in North America – including Celia Cruz’s comeback from an early retirement, becoming the first piano player for the legendary Fania All-Stars, and the creation of the Latin Grammy Award. His contribution to Latin music has resulted in a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Currently, Larry continues to lead and perform his music in New York, a true living legend.



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