A Jew and a Nuyorican Walk into a Club…

…they get up on stage and start playing “Havah Nagilah” with a cha-cha-chá rhythm.

The place goes nuts!

True story.

Growing up in New York in the ’70, the names Harlow, Levy and Weinstein were as integral a part of the music I listened and danced to, as was Cruz, Pacheco and Puente. I wasn’t even aware of the different ethnic backgrounds. What I cared about was the music.

As a matter of fact, you couldn’t assume that the names playing Salsa music and Latin Jazz back then were even Hispanic. You had O’Farrill, Barretto and Palmieri. A Cuban-born “son of an Irish father and a Cuban mother of German descent” and two New Yorkers of Puerto Rican parents, in that order. And what a fine recipe for great music this melting pot turned out to be.

Hispanics and Jews were united by — among many things — the love of Latin music. The mutual enjoyment of the music goes back further than the Nineteen-Seventies.

Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos is a fine example of an earlier collaboration.

Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos.
Cover Art for Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos.

NPR’s Jon Kalish writes about Jewish Classics Live Again, Set to Latin Beats

The album Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos dates from a time in the late 1940s through the mid-’60s when Latin music was hugely popular in this country’s Jewish community. Albums blending the two cultures sold millions of copies. One of them, which put Jewish classics to a Latin beat, has just been reissued — and is being re-created in concert at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos was released in 1961 by the venerable jazz label Riverside Records. It claimed to be the work of Juan Calle and His Latin Lantzmen but was actually recorded by some of the preeminent jazz and Latin music players of the time — including Doc Cheatham, Clark Terry, Ray Barretto and Charlie Palmieri.

Continue reading here or listen to the NPR radio broadcast Jewish Classics Live Again, Set To Latin Beats

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