Celebrating his 50th anniversary in the music business and a newly released album entitled Listen Here!
, Latin jazz piano legend Eddie Palmieri opened a week-long stint at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night.
Playing together for the first time, Palmieri and supporting cast Donald Harrison (alto sax), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Jose Claussell (timbales), Jose Santiago (bass) and Johnny Rivero (congas), treated the audience to a lively evening of vibrant tunes, long solos, spirited exchanges and good humor. And while the trained ear may have noticed a lack of cohesion and a degree of first-night awkwardness, the night developed into an entertaining guided tour of Palmieri's auspicious career that had most of the crowd clapping in time to the rapid fire congas, shouting and calling for more.
Palmieri warmed up the audience with a spirited rendition of "Picadillo, referencing his famous collaboration with fellow Latin jazz great Tito Puente, and then moved directly into a medium-tempo ballad featuring Harrison on sax performing a bluesy soft-touch solo, while the blended rhythm of the timbales and congas added a distinctive, unusual texture to the old-school blues.
Taking the helm on the next piece, "Slow Visor, Bryan Lynch displayed his dexterity and showmanship, whipping the audience up with bravura runs and imbuing his solos with a characteristic cleverness that both impresses with its musical ability and good-natured humor.
Opening the next tune with a long solo, Palmieri dashed across the keyboard, building a slow crescendo that segued directly into a fast-paced take on "Don't Stop the Train from the album Arete
. Again, Lynch eventually took the reigns, driving the rest of the band into a combative, feisty exchange of solos that pitted his trumpet against the throaty, gutsy playing of Harrison and the interlocking rhythms of Clausell, Santiago and Rivero.
Closing out the night with the theme from the new album, Palmieri set the stage with an extended solo before turning the tune over to his bandmates. An up-tempo piece, the band ripped through another series of solos before concluding with a high-energy percussive display showcasing Rivero's ample skills.
Although not the most refined of performances, and not as tight or daring as the music revealed on Listen Here!
, the night's show was in any case an energetic beginning to what promises to be a successful and inspiring tour.