Share This Page

Spanish Harlem Orchestra heats up North Side with singing, dancing

| Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 9:45 p.m.

Outside, temperatures were hovering in the teens, but inside, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra was making sure there was plenty of heat to go around.

The 13-piece ensemble made its first stop in Pittsburgh with two shows Friday at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side and clearly showed the reason for its success. Its four albums all have been nominated for Grammy awards and it has won two of them.

Led by pianist/founder Oscar Hernandez, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra puts on a show more than a concert. Ray De La Paz, Marco Bermudez and Carlos Cascante not only sing, but they are constantly dancing in a coordinated manner that has each doing the same steps.

It was sort of like watching a Latin jazz marching band. While they sang, the five horn players swayed or shuffled behind them. Then, when the horns played, the singers went into their dance.

Watching was almost as good as listening.

Almost is the key work, though, because the pianist and his nine fellow instrumentalist produce a tight, exciting sound that is not to be ignored. The trumpets of Hector Colon and Manuel Ruiz offer a crisp, high-ranging sound that is balanced by the trombones of Reynaldo Jorge and Douglas Beavers along with the baritone sax of Jorge Castro.

From a version of the standard “You and the Night and the Music” to a sizzling “This Is Mambo” that ended the concert and had the crowd on its feet, the excitement slowed only for a pretty bolero done by the three singers.

The concert showed that interplay almost immediately with “SHO Intro,” its traditional opening featuring the band. But then the singers filed out, picking up on the line the horns were playing and turning the instrumental into a vocal.

In the next piece, though, “La Salsa Dura,” trumpeter Ruiz came to the front to offer an instrumental showpiece to a tune dominated by the voices. Hernandez often says he wants the band not to be dominated by anyone, but to star everyone, and that idea is clear.

The band did one piece without the singers, “Rumba Urbana,” which Hernandez said he wanted to include to fit in to the Guild's renown as a jazz site.

He needn't have worried.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.