One of the frequently hidden gems behind the rise of Fania as Latin music's label extraordinaire in the late '60s and early '70s, Larry Harlow served as producer for countless Fania LPs, musical director of the Fania All-Stars, and of course, captain of his own Orchestra Harlow, which sailed along with the expertise of many great musicians and at least one of the greatest soneros of all time, Ismael Miranda. Additionally, during a very turbulent decade for Latin music, Harlow had a foot in both contemporary and traditionalist camps: he recorded an impressive Latin opera that was performed at Carnegie Hall but he worshipped the great tres player Arsenio Rodriguez and recorded an album-length tribute after his death.
Harlow, born Ira Kahn in Brooklyn in 1939, was greatly influenced by his father Buddy Kahn Harlow, a bassist and bandleader. He began piano studies at the age of five, and planned to become a jazz pianist until he first heard the mambo while attending Music and Art High School during the early '50s. During the 1964 World's Fair (held in Flushing, Queens), Harlow played piano for Johnny Pacheco's conjunto before creating the Larry Harlow orchestra. Heavily influenced by the Arsenio Rodriguez sound, Harlow modernized it and was hailed a disciple of "El Ciegito Maravilloso" ("The Marvelous Blind One") and was himself dubbed "El Judio Maravilloso" ("The Marvelous Jew"). After Arsenio's death on December 31, 1970, Harlow emotionally moved the Latin music world with the Fania album Tribute to Arsenio Rodriguez in 1971. Two years later, Harlow made headlines again with his Fania album Hommy, A Latin Opera, which was staged at Carnegie Hall. ~ Max Salazar & John Bush