Their CD together, Obra Maestra
(RMM, 2000), recorded just before the great timbalero's death, is just that, a masterpiece of collaboration between two significant world artists. Eddie reflects on the landmark session. "The one who [had] played with Tito was my brother Charlie and they had a lifetime friendship...[for me to play with Tito] was unique...you are talking about one of the greatest percussionists we ever saw here...when I was a young man I wanted to play the timbales because of Tito Puente...he was the man...he was the pioneer that made everything happen...and he rose to the occasion in the recording." Additional recent releases, Ritmo Caliente
(Concord, 2003) and La Perfecta II
(Concord, 2002) are uniquely Eddie Palmieri and present the pianist in the context of the Latin Jazz that he rules. The former contains gems like the wonderfully intricate "Grandpa Semi-Tone Blues", "Billie" (a tribute to Lady Day), the gorgeous bolero "Tema para Reneé" and a title cut that is an in-your-face reworking of the original "Ritmo Caliente" from Eddie's 1962 classic LP, La Perfecta
. The latter reprises the original "La Perfecta" concept but with the benefit of 40 years experience and maturation. The tunes are of course hot, featuring the powerful horns of trumpeter Brian Lynch and trombonist Conrad Herwig against a percussive onslaught. This results in serious music that retains the fun and power of the originals.
With seven Grammys, over 50 albums and a career that has seen him bring Latin jazz to the far reaches of the world, Eddie commented on the rhythmical reasons for the wide cross cultural appeal of Latin music. "The organism fluctuates between being restful and being restless and when you hear the Latin rhythms being played properly with a great orchestra with good arrangements and a good singer, whether you know the language or not, you can feel the beat...The bassist is playing in unison with the conga player...he is going: 1...2...3...boom boom...oom paka chaka...dun dun, the bassist is playing a tumbao, dee dee yu...bee been...dee dee dee...bee been and they are meeting in a certain time which gives them a synchronization and then the piano vamp and then the bongo and the timbales folding in because between the timbales and the bongo there is a question and answer. They all have specific jobs to do and different patterns to play but they are complementary to the degree that it synchronizes so well that it is a force coming at you that is going to excite you... It just grabs everyone because the rhythm is going to get you. The rhythm is the most exciting rhythmical patterns to me in the world....you can't miss." Mr. Palmieri's appearance at this summer's JVC Jazz Festival is indication that he is clearly right when he adds "You are either going to dance or you are going to be moving in your chair in a concert." From his premiere position in Latin jazz, he thankfully continues to be both "keeper of the flame" and musical innovator. Recommended Listening:
· Eddie Palmieri - La Perfecta (Allegre-Fania, 1962)
· Eddie Palmieri - Mambo con Conga Is Mozambique (Tico, 1965)
· Eddie Palmieri - Molasses (Tico, 1967)
· Eddie Palmieri - The Sun of Latin Music (with Lalo Rodriguez) (Musical Productions-Charly, 1973)
· Eddie Palmieri - La Perfecta II (Concord Jazz, 2002)
· Eddie Palmieri - Listen Here! (Concord, 2005)
Eddie Palmieri: Latin Jazz Standard-bearer
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