The ongoing achievements of the great Latin jazz pianist/composer Eddie Palmieri may hopefully lead listeners new to Latin music to explore the recordings of his equally talented brother Charlie. Charlie Palmieri, a dynamic keyboardist and bandleader, passed away in 1988, and his albums have been difficult to obtain compared to those of his younger brother. "El Gigante Del Teclado," which translates into English as the immodest but accurate "The Giant of the Keyboard," is one of an outstanding batch of long unavailable Fania albums coming back into the marketplace with sparkling sound. It is an exceptionally lively showcase for the lesser-known Palmieri, and here are some reasons why.
The difference between the Palmieri brothers might be summarized by the fact that Eddie loved long, discursive solos, knew how to find the Latin in McCoy Tyner's piano voicings, and developed ambitious concept albums. Charlie's solos would be often more concise and less grandly dramatic, and they occured in the context of many albums where songs clocked in at under five minutes. If you listen to this disc for jazz influences, give a repeated listen to the simply stunning solo on "Coco," where Charlie creates some unexpected silences between joyously hammered, dissonant chords a la Monk or early Cecil Taylor.
Another distinguishing feature is Charlie Palmieri's lighter-than-air touch on organ, showcased on "Que Se Vaya," causing me to imagine how Carlos Santana's foray into Latin jazz could have been intensified if he had brought Palmieri in as a guest with the Santana band.
The fervent interplay of trumpets throughout this session is enthralling, particularly those solos sent into the stratosphere by the Cuban-born master Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros. The trumpets blend with sax or flute, a battery of percussion, a Fender bass, and a lead vocalist who is really secondary in terms of making the album jump. The best songs, with the exception of the opening "La Huija De Lola" (which had a second life as a hit for the Spanish Harlem Orchestra in 2005), are more instrumental jams executed by inspired masters of salsa who knew their jazz history.
La Hija De Lola; La Llave Y El Candao; Sedante De Rhumba; Que Se Vaya; El Mundo Esta
Bien-El Loco Soy Yo; Coco; El Pan Sobao
Charlie Palmieri: piano, organ, melodica, percussion; Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros:
trumpet; Lou Laurita: trumpet; Bobby Nelson: sax/flute; Bobby Rodriguez: Fender bass;
Quique Davis: timbales; Johnny Rodriguez: bongo; Luis Rodriguez: conga; Robby Franquiz:
percussion; Vitin Aviles: vocals; Tito Puente: vocal chorus.
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