Grupo Fantasma With Larry Harlow

Larry Harlow
Larry Harlow

7:30pm, Pavilion Stage

Were it not for Larry Harlow, Grupo Fantasma wouldn't have received a Grammy nomination for 2008's Sonidos Gold. That's not to overstate the NYC-based pianist's guest contributions to the album but rather to emphasize the magnitude of his stature in the Latin music community.

"In 1974, I picketed the Grammys with about 200 Latino kids, showed them the demographics and how much buying power we had and how many records we sell," boasts Harlow, who received a Latin Grammy Trustee Award in 2008. "They gave us one Grammy in 1975, and look at where it is now."

Affectionately dubbed "El Judio Maravilloso" ("The Marvelous Jew"), Harlow was one of the leaders of the lauded Fania Records, which pioneered salsa music in the mid-1960s. Equally inspired by Cuban bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez and Tito Puente, Harlow served as the music director of the Fania All-Stars, producing more than 250 albums ("probably more like 400," by his count), while steering his own Orchestra Harlow.

"The Fania movement from 1965 to 1980 was something that was unique and will never happen again," posits Harlow. "It developed a new style of playing, a mix of Afro-Cuban music and New York bebop. Everything that was going on politically and socially really came out in the music that the Latinos were playing."

As such, Harlow is one of the last keepers of the flame, what he calls "la verdad" (the truth). It's a torch he's helped pass down not only to Grupo Fantasma but also to the Mars Volta, with whom he's recorded and toured.

"It's fun crossing over with these kids and showing them how to do it the right way," says Harlow. "They have their own sound, but I want to make sure that the clave and the Afro-Cuban rhythms are still there." – Austin Powell

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