A living and breathing embodiment of Afro-Cuban jazz, Eddie Palmieri continues to amaze and astound, even more so on his most recent release, Sabiduría/Wisdom. A project helmed by son Eddie Palmieri II, this collection of new material serves as a musical travelogue of the elder Palmieri’s life in which many of the musicians he’s worked with throughout varied stops of his storied career have signed on for this voyage.
Equally impressive are the nods to seminal canonical releases that include Bamboléate and Vamonos Pa’l Monte. Influenced by his late brother Charlie (a well-respected musician in his own right), Eddie Palmieri started playing piano when he was 8 years old. Roughly seven-plus decades later, he’s carved out a legacy that’s found him going from El Barrio to reaping many accolades that include his winning the first Grammy recognizing Latin music in 1975, seeing his composition “Azucar Pa Ti” get inducted into the 2009 National Recording Registry of the United States Library of Congress and 2010 induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. A musical sponge with a deep well of inspiration, Palmieri doesn’t hesitate to share some of his favorite musicians. While he’s quick to mention legendary names including Bud Powell, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, the following artists are the ones that really resonate for this unparalleled band leader.
Charlie Palmieri (November 21, 1927-September 12, 1988)
“My brother Charlie Palmieri has got to be number one. He was a genius. He was already playing professionally at the age of 14 with the top bands. In 1948, he was playing in the original Copacabana when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis started—he played those shows. My brother was the most amazing pianist that ever played in the Latin jazz genre. And then as an organist, he proved that he had no competition when we did Vamanos Pal’Monte. That’s him on organ. So he has to be number one.
Arsenio Rodriguez (August 31, 1911-December 30, 1970)
“When you talk about our music, you talk before or after Arsenio. His combo featured Jesus Lopez, my mentor Lílí Martinez [Luis Griñán] and Félix Chappottín and that’s in Cuba.”
McCoy Tyner (December 11, 1938-present)
“I saw him at Birdland with [my trombonist] Barry Rogers. I went on a Sunday and it was a little empty and [Tyner] was playing as part of the original John Coltrane Quartet. I couldn’t believe. After [Coltrane] took his solo on one of the numbers, he sat down and I didn’t know if he was doing the lyrics for ‘A Love Supreme,’ because he died the next year, or if he was doing the payroll. All I know is that all that time that he’s writing for about 20 minutes, McCoy Tyner was soloing and it just kept building and building and building and swelling and swelling. It got to the point where I couldn’t even see his left hand. Right there and then, he became my mentor of the jazz pianists. He was the best for me.”
The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra will be appearing on Dec. 28 at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 West 42nd St. NYC. For more information, visit www.bbkingblues.com or call 212-997-4144.