Is Latin jazz some musicians' excuse for having fun? Eddie Palmieri's really a jazz-influenced Latin pianist, but he has lots of fun running and recording bands of top-line jazzmen. He's no conventionally accomplished contemporary jazz pianist, but all the better because he's unconventional, distinguished mostly by his very competent musical extrovert verve.
This outgoing date has only occasional quiet moments, like John Scofield's near-mandolin acoustic guitar in "La Gitana," amid examples of the boss-man's bass- supported and very musical crash, bang, and extended flourish.
The guests are a very musical extravagance. Regina Carter delivers robust swing violin with the octet doing the little big band thing on Palmieri's "In Flight," before the horns and bassist go for a beer with Carter and Mike Brecker comes in on R&B tenor for an Eddie Harris tune; Christian McBride replaces the bassist and solos substantially. David Sanchez's tenor comes in with John Scofield's electric guitar for another Palmieri tune, along with the full band. Then the bassist duets with Palmieri on another of the latter's tunes.
Back come all the horns for the Gil Fuller/Chano Pozo Dizzy Gillespie big band piece "Tin Tin Deo," Sanchez soloing, then Palmieri and the sparky Giovanni Hidalgo. Monk's "In Walked Bud" is next, en famille, with no guests, featuring a solo from everybody bar the bassist and Doug Beavers, who gets credit throughout for "additional arrangement and orchestration" wherever the band is bigger. The two trombones are the pivot of the larger group music. Monk's rhythms lose some subtlety in louder performance, but they Latinise well, and there's always ample swing.
Even Scofield's quieter bout in the trio interlude "La Gitana" doesn't calm things, Palmieri makes certain. Carter and trumpeter Nicholas Payton are the guest soloists on Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," third in a dream trilogy. "Mira Flores" is yet another good Palmieri number, with Christian McBride guesting brilliantly on bass, compensating for Mike Brecker's lapse into a current pop tenor saxophone sound.
"EP Blues" is a final Palmieri composition for the time being, carrying things to a close, Benitez back with a vengeance and Payton acting as guest soloist. Why is Ivan Renta, sometime saxophonist in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, thanked for "additional alto saxophone"? Are his performances all unlisted? Did the excellent Donald Harrison need help, or a did a tape of him need patching? Conrad Herwig storms in solo, followed by Brian Lynch, Donald Harrison better than ever and Payton building to the climax, which is of course Palmieri's. Hidalgo takes things out. His business is what it's all about, considering the drummer on this date is no less than Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez.
Visit Eddie Palmieri on the web.
Personnel: Eddie Palmieri (piano); John Scofield (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Regina Carter (violin); Donald Harrison (alto saxophone); David Sanchez , Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone); Nicholas Payton, Brian Lynch (trumpet); Conrad Herwig, Doug Beavers (trombone); Christian McBride, John Benitez (bass instrument); Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez (drums); Giovanni Hidalgo (congas).
Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, New York (01/2005).