The pianist, composer and arranger traveled to Cuba for late-night recording sessions in Havana.
Arthur Hanlon has one major rule when collaborating: chemistry. It should inspire the creative flow and if travel is involved, even better. Enter Cuba and the vibrant musical style of the hip-hop group Orishas.
"This one came out by accident," says Hanlon of the team-up. "I wanted to do something fresh and original. Suddenly, I get a knock on the door and it's Yotuel Romero, the lead singer of Orishas."
From the get-go, the vibe was cool, immediate and instantly the foursome entered a spirited musical journey. Eventually, Hanlon found himself traveling and before he knew it, he was going on very little sleep during a 48-hour run in Cuba with 2:00 a.m. recording sessions. The connection with Orishas' Romero, Ruzzo Medina and Roldán González ultimately paid off because it gave way to creating new music through riffing and unscripted moments.
"We played Cuban blues," Hanlon recalls, adding that American blues, Cuban son and rap were also part of those creative sessions. "The chemistry was good and the musical and creative conversations came naturally."
It was during those late nights that "Como Suena El Piano" (Listen to the Piano) was born. "We went into the studio with no plan and we went into a timeless musical zone and this is what came out."
Hanlon wants the Orishas recording sessions in Havana to be represented in the upcoming "Arthur Hanlon's Gringo en La Habana" tour, a title that was conceived by the Michigan-born pianist recently when he was reflecting on his international career as a "gringo" with a piano and traveling around the world…this time inspired by the sounds and scenes of Havana.
"It's a metaphor for my career," said Hanlon, who also holds the distinction of being the only pianist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Latin charts. "In my career I've been the gringo in places like Mexico, Colombia and now Cuba."
A follow-up to “Si Tu Te Vas” with Colombian singer Fonseca, “Como Suena El Piano” is part of a series of collaborations through Hanlon's label, Sony Music Latin. The new touring show will feature many surprises, Hanlon said, and his band will also tour with him.
"Hanlon's Gringo en La Habana" Tour debuts on Oct. 11 in Fort Lauderdale, then goes to Los Angeles at the Catalina Jazz Club on Oct. 16 before heading to New York's Sony Hall on Nov. 5, then Wash., D.C. at The Howard Theater on Nov. 6. "Arthur Hanlon's Gringo en La Habana" tour tickets are available here:
Editor's Note: Hanlon is married to Billboard's vp/Latin industry, Leila Cobo.