Tuesday, June 8, 2010

El Judio Maravilloso

So last week, during Shabbat dinner, my grandma gave me a bunch of old CD's that used to belong to my grandpa Jack. Jack was a huge music fan. Back in the day he used to play bongos in a salsa orchestra. Later on, when he had kids, he used to line them all up in rows and teach them how to dance. Anyways, as I was going through the collection I found this one CD which is labeled as a collaboration of Colombian, American, and ISRAELI, musicians fusing Colombian music with jazz.

The project is titled Folklore Urbano. It is a recent project directed by Colombian pianist Pablo Mayor. There only seems to be one Israeli in the band, though there are also a couple of American Jews. The Israeli dude, who plays trombone and euphonium, is Rafi Malkiel. He seems to be a pretty talented dude and has received a lot of praise for his 2008 album My Island. You can check out his music here.

Anyways, point of the story is, I got to thinking about the involvement of Jews in the emergence of Latin and Afro-Caribbean music during the 40's and 50's. I did a little research, and as it turns out, the close proximity of Jews and Latinos in certain neighborhoods of New York, exposed Jews early on to these new styles of music. Many Jews, such as my grandpa, became diehard fans, and many Jewish businessmen capitalized on the popularity of this music, and helped promote the careers of Latin musicians. Eventually, there also emerged plenty of musical collaborations. Not only did many Jewish musicians play in Latin Orchestras, but the Latin musicians recognized the Jews' enthusiasm and teamed up with Jewish musicians to produce albums like Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos.

The coolest Jew in this whole scene is Larry Harlow, born Lawrence Ira Kahn, a.ka. "El Judio Maravilloso". A star pianist, Harlow was one of the early talents involved in the legendary Fania Records, and helped develop what we know today as modern salsa. He has produced over 250 albums for various artists and continues to perform even today. He is the one playing piano on the video above. If you pay attention you will hear him introduced as "El Judio Marivilloso" around 1:20.

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