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Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love: ‘It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba’

A new compilation revives the once ubiquitous, now mostly forgotten Latin-Jewish connection of the 1940s to the ’80s

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“Yo Soy Latino,” by Larry Harlow
This 1983 track proudly states “I am Latino,” but if there was ever a musician who fully embodied the Latin-Jewish connection, it was Larry Harlow. Harlow was one of the most prolific composers, arrangers, and leaders of late salsa and released more than 50 albums for Latin leader Fania Records. During the early 1970s, some older beatnik friends and I would drive around New York smoking and aimlessly listening to “Symphony Sid” Torin, the Jewish disc jockey who had moved his program from jazz to Latin, focusing on Barretto, Harlow, Willie Colon, Johnny Colon, and the occasional vocal jazz tune by King Pleasure or Nina Simone. Harlow’s roots run deep on both sides of the music. Born in Brooklyn as Lawrence Ira Kahn, he had a grandfather who was a theater critic for the Forward; his father, Nathan Kahn, was a bandleader and bass player who played at the Latin Quarter for 20 years. Larry Harlow also traveled in Cuba and became familiar with not only the music but the spiritual concepts aligned with Cuban music. Which brings up the question: Can one observe Santeria rituals and still be a good Jew? This music will make you think anything is possible.

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Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love: ‘It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba’

A new compilation revives the once ubiquitous, now mostly forgotten Latin-Jewish connection of the 1940s to the ’80s