Larry Harlow plays the piano like palm trees play the breeze, like a lizard plays the grass, like the sunrise plays the morning. He's a natural. And 50 years of practice have made him even better.
The so-called Judio Maravilloso, which translates to "Amazing Jew," was the first guy signed to Fania Records, the label that basically invented the term salsa music. He's the arranger behind the powerful horn lines that have come to define the genre. And he's the player of the magical, dancing piano lines that have sent a hundred million hips in motion.
This weekend, Harlow will headline Red Bull Siempre Fresco, a fiesta starring salsa legends like him and Marlow Rosado alongside Latin-influenced DJs like moombahton innovators Nadastrom and Miami's own electropico master DJ Pauer.
There will also be a Thursday-afternoon Q&A with Harlow and Spam Allstars' DJ Le Spam, followed by a Friday-night kickoff party with the Que Bajo?! and Peligrosa crews.
But the big bash goes down on Saturday at Grand Central Miami.
Red Bull Siempre Fresco's Miami Lineup
-Marlow Rosada y La Riqueña
Moombahton Massive Crew
Que Bajo?! Crew
For Larry Harlow, it all started when he was 17 years old and hanging out at the Palladium in New York City. He and his buddies were mambonics, avid Afro-Cuban music fans who played, partied, and danced to their favorite style every chance they got. "If you couldn't dance, you couldn't hang. So I hadda learn how to dance," Harlow says.
By the mid-1950s, this led him to the famous island of Cuba, which was still wide open to tourism and full of Americans having the times of their lives. "It was cha-cha heaven," Harlow recalls. "I became salsafied. I fell in love with the music in New York. But to be there in person was something else. Every bus stop, restaurant, and grocery store had a live band."
A few years later, back in the Big Apple, he found a Cuban girlfriend and took piano gigs anywhere he could get them. One day he got called to an audition at an empty club on a rainy evening, and who should happen to be there but his old buddy Johnny Pacheco. The gig was to sign as an artist to this new Fania Records label, and he was the first guy to do it.
Since then, it's been a long and winding road through salsa history, and Harlow has even played in Africa with Celia Cruz.
You might also run into him shopping on South Beach and not even know it. Like every true New Yorker, he's got family in Florida and a condo on 18th Street and Collins Avenue.
Now catch the man live in the flesh and rocking with the best electronic Latin groups in the world, right here in the MIA for Red Bull Siempre Fresco.
Crossfade's Top Blogs
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Red Bull Music Academy Lecture: A Conversation With Salsa Legend Larry Harlow. Hosted by DJ Le Spam. Co-presented by MDC Live Arts. Thursday, October 16. Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami. The event begins at 3 p.m. and admission is free with RSVP via win.gs/siemprelecture.
Red Bull Siempre Fresco Kickoff Party. With Que Bajo?!'s Geko Jones and Uproot Andy, alongside Peligrosa's Orion, El Dusty, and DJ Manny. Friday, October 17. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 11 p.m. and tickets cost $12 to $15 plus fees via win.gs/SFpre. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-7750 or visit bardotmiami.com.
Red Bull Siempre Fresco. With Larry Harlow and Marlow Rosado y La Requeña, plus the Moombahton Massive, Que Bajo, Peligrosa, and Electropico crews. Saturday, October 18. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 11 p.m., and tickets cost $20 plus fees via redbull.com/siemprefresco. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.