Although it’s hardly a recording for the ages, like the classics Justicia, Sentido, or Palmas, last year’s casual Live! (RMM) is a nice jaunt through the phases of Eddie Palmieri’s career as a Latin-jazz avatar. Born to Puerto Rican parents in Spanish Harlem in 1936, Palmieri initially resisted jazz in favor of salsa, but by the mid-60s, when his group La Perfecta had become a bright light on New York’s salsa scene (it set off a craze for trombone-and-violin-fronted bands, an update of charanga’s trombone-and-flute sound), he’d succumbed to the charms of Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock. Recordings from the subsequent decades–five of which have landed him Grammys–have charted his thoughtful, crafty fusion of these two musical worlds. Many of his tunes open with his daring solo piano work, a mix of lush or dissonant harmonies, romantic wanderlust, and imaginative lyricism, though before long it always yields to an infectious Afro-Caribbean rhythm. Few pianists in any arena can vamp with Palmieri’s power and authority–it’s revealing that he originally wanted to be a percussionist. Details on his backing group for this gig were unavailable at press time, but his bands are usually staffed by superb musicians, fluent in both Latin rhythms and the complex vocabulary of bop. Friday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583 or 312-923-2000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Juity.