Spanish Harlem Orchestra United We Swing

With a recent spate of almost always good "salsa dura” (heavy salsa) reissues focusing on the pioneering ’70s New York scene, it is increasingly difficult to open your ears to some of the newer bands making this, the most swinging of Latin rhythms. New York’s Spanish Harlem Orchestra know this and that’s why United We Swing is deeply rooted in Nuyorican traditions, albeit with modern production. The horns sound crisp and strong, and the non-stop percussion almost trance-like, thus providing refreshing modern takes that stand up against the greats. The 13-piece orchestra is led by world renowned pianist Oscar Hernández, who wonderfully dances his fingers over the keys in "En El Tiempo Del Palladium” and "Que Bonito” or like a true showman, takes the time to verbally engage the audience while the band queues up on opener "SHO Intro.” Because he can, Paul Simon, diverted from South African music for the moment, shows up for closing track "Late In The Evening,” which is an awkward mix of white boy vocals and Spanish back-up melodies. Like a salsa album, unless you’re dancing the music can wear over the course of an album but if you’re looking for some great patio music to heat up a summer’s evening, this is a good choice. (Six Degrees)