I first met Larry Harlow as a little girl – when my dad took me to a Fania All-Stars Concert in Miami, maybe 1973-74. My Dad knew Celia Cruz from a time he had spent in Cuba when she first became the voice of Sonora Matencera plus he loved El Judio Maravilloso- Larry Harlow. So Daddy took me backstage…
I was a little black Venezuelan girl in the United States… I had never seen a star that looked like me up close like that, I was mesmerized by Celia – her long Dashiki dress – her fabulous shoes and her absolute pride in her African-ness. And the cultural musical wonder that we’re the Fania All Stars was magic to me. Harlow’s clave led fingers were the perfect accompaniment to Celia’s blessed vocals. All roads for Fania began musically in Africa. The ancestors, deities and spirits used the sounds to call us and I was hooked right then and there.
As an adult I became a television producer at BET on Jazz in the 1990s. So some 30 years later I’m at Jazzmatazz in the Ronald Reagan Building in DC getting all of these Jazz artists to do some promos for the Channel for me.
I look at my artist list and notice Larry Harlow and the Latin Legends and I’m perplexed. You see, I only remember the “Judio Maravilloso” moniker from my childhood so I had no idea who Larry Harlow was, so I go into the ballroom where they are setting up to play.
I recognize some of the band members from the Fania All stars and get excited. I wonder to myself if the Judio Maravilloso is playing with the Latin Legends. I tell the one older Gentleman I’m from BET on Jazz the only cable network dedicated to Jazz. I ask for the tour manager and Mr Harlow says that’s me. I then ask him who Larry Harlow is and if by chance the “Judio Maravilloso” was playing with this band because of all the Fania Alumni I recognize in the band.
At this point Larry chuckles and says “I’m all that my dear, El Judio Maravilloso, tour manager and Larry Harlow all rolled into one.” Surprised, I covered my mouth and giggled gleefully because working in Jazz ignited such wonderful memories for me. This music, these musicians were the soundtrack to my childhood.
From that day – I began to record, interview and document the best Latin musicians on this planet. And El Judio Maravilloso opened the door.
Larry Harlow never refused me entrance to his home, access to his vast library of musical memories… He never held back the stories he told whether the camera was rolling or not…
Magnificent tales were told in each of his solos… his legacy is sewn into the arrangements and improvisation of the music he and all of his extraordinary friends created.
Larry loved this music ceaselessly.
I pray you a journey en clave Maestro…
Rest in Power Judio Maravilloso.
“Bendición y Ache”
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