A report by Ron Scott for the Amsterdam News.
Great bands are known for their perfected sound and a swinging style that is so undeniable. Some try to duplicate and others just want to testify.
The renowned pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri was already respected for his stunning piano work, but when he replaced the traditional salsa instrumentation of trumpets with two trombones and flute for a more penetrating sound, he changed the New
York Latin sound.
March 3 and March 4 Palmieri will bring his forceful sound that is now his signature in salsa and Latin jazz to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall (60th Street and Broadway).
Palmieri, who is still celebrating his 80th birthday (Dec. 15), stated, “This will be the most historical musical night having to do with Latin music. We have re-orchestrated all the music.”
The Afro-Caribbean dance orchestra will be a mini reunion from the Palmieri school, including longtime collaborators Jimmy Bosch, authentic sonero Hermán Olivera on vocals, Charlie Sepulveda, Louis Fouché of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Joseph Fiedler, Doug Beavers, Brian Lynch, and Herman Olivera from Orlando.
The performance will also be streamed live online Saturday, March 4, at 8 p.m. at http://www.jazz.org/live.
“First it started out as Afro-Cuban then Afro-Caribbean, but now after we have traveled all over the world it is now Afro world,” stated Palmieri.
His new CD “Wisdom” will be released in April. The pianist said, “It is a great Latin jazz album.”
As the leader and founder of the bands La Perfecta, La Perfecta II and Harlem River Drive, Palmieri has every reason to expect this album to live up to his expectations. He has accumulated a total of nine Grammy Awards, including one for his 2006 album “Simpatico.”
In 1975, Palmieri became the first Latin musician to win a Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording with “The Sun of Latin Music.”
For me his greatest album will always be “Azucar Pa’ Ti” (“Sugar for You”), Fania 1965. In Edenwald Projects in the Bronx, if you weren’t carrying “Azucar” and a Miles Davis album under your arm on the way to a young lady’s house or party, you were totally lame.
“Azucar Pa’ Ti” is in the National Archives of the Library of Congress. The title track was one of the first long cuts. At that time most tracks were two minutes, but this salsa sizzler was a hot nine minutes and 35 seconds.
Although Palmieri was born in Manhattan, he was raised in the Bronx and lived at 830 Kelly Street. As a youngster he worked in a store where he was the soda jerk (making ice cream malts and cream sodas), but he was also in charge of the jukebox. “The music on my box was the best in the Bronx,” noted the NEA Jazz Master.
At the age of 13 Palmieri was playing the timbales. His uncle warned him, “That instrument is too heavy for you to carry. It’s going to give you a hernia. You should consider the piano.” After much deliberation, he packed up his timbales and gave the instrument back to his uncle.
As he began playing piano he was inspired by Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. “Monk and McCoy were magical,” he said. “They played hard and were never afraid to try something new. When I first saw the John Coltrane Quartet at Birdland it was amazing. When Coltrane took a 15-minute solo, he became my mentor.”
The Bronx was a musical hotbed where many musicians lived, such as Tito Puente, Orlando Marin, Tito Rodriguez, Bobby Rodriguez and the Gonzalez brothers, Andy and Jerry. These cats played in clubs such as the Concourse Plaza, the Savoy Manor and the Carlton Terrace.
During his early days in Manhattan, Palmieri played with Tito Puente at the Palladium, where salsa and mambo were king from 1949 to 1960.
Palmieri just returned from performing in Switzerland a few days ago, in time for this two-day performance. “I am better than ever and I’m playing better than ever,” he said. That is a statement of fact, not hype. The crooner Bobby Short always referred to artists he admired by calling them “a big deal.” And Palmieri is certainly that and more. Performances are each night at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call 212-721-6500 or visit the website http://www.jazz.org. Note of caution: It is difficult to sit when Palmieri is playing.
March 4, at 9:30 p.m. Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz will join forces with The 15th annual Lady Got Chops Women’s History Month Festival. The jazz vocalists featured will be Joy F. Brown, Sheryl Renee and Patsy Grant. Their accompanists will include the pianist Katie Cosco, bassist Kim Clarke and drummer Taylor Moore.
The performances will be followed by an open mic/jazz jam and that famous complimentary banana puddin’. The performance takes place at the Nuyorican Poets Café at 236 East Third St. (between Avenue B and Avenue C). Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Visit the website Nuyorican.org.
During this awkward moment in American politics, when it seems like the recently elected “red overlord” is intent on driving the country backward in fourth gear, it is encouraging to see active movements taking place across the country.
Because jazz has been played in the name of freedom and equality in the face of repression, it is understandable why at this moment the discussion on “Jazz & Deep Democracy,” with Greg Clark and Keith Gilyard should take place at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem March 9.
Clark and Gilyard, using Cornel West’s idea of “deep democracy” and the recently published epic poem by Louis Reyes Rivera, “Jazz in Jail,” will discuss moments when jazz steps out to defend democracy in the United States. Jazz demands democracy in the world beyond music through activism and words of freedom.
In this new “Twilight Zone” existence, it is important to remember a quotation from that popular television show: “In a world of insanity, even the sane seem insane.”
The discussion takes place at 7 p.m. at 58 W. 129th St. A $10 donation is suggested.