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Charlie Palmieri

He was an authoritative voice in Latin American piano styles, an accomplished classical player, a fine arranger, ensemble player, and an inspired soloist.. For those familiar with his work in the salsa world, the melodic and harmonic ideas explored distinguish Palmieri as one of the great creative Latino voices. His technical prowess is truly astounding, with a variety of styles represented, including tango, bolero, cha cha and of course mambo. He was affectionately known as "The Giant of the Keyboard," and he was that.

Nine years senior to his famous brother Eddie Palmieri, Carlos Manuel Palmieri was born of Puerto Rican parentage in New York on November 12th 1927. A child musical prodigy who could faultlessly copy a piece on the piano by ear, he began piano lessons at the age of six and later studied at the Juilliard School of Music. During the 1940s and '50s he worked as a sideman with Rafael Muñoz, Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, Pupi Campo, Tito Rodriguez, Vicentico Valdés and Pete Terrace, among others. In 1948 he made eight Latin jazz-oriented recordings for the Alba label with his first band Conjunto Pin Pin featuring Sabú Martinez on conga, which were collected in the album “El Fantastico Charlie Palmieri” on Tropical Records.

Also in the Latin jazz vein, he made “Easy Does It” as leader of The Charlie Palmieri Quartet on Gone Records in 1959. Meanwhile, successful tours in the late '50s by the flute and fiddles charanga bands of Cuba's José Fajardo and Orquesta Aragón kick-started New York City's 1960- 64 charanga boom with Charlie's newly formed Charanga La Duboney leading the pack.

Charlie made his album debut with Charanga La Duboney in 1960 on United Artists with “Let's Dance The Charanga!” Charlie then took La Duboney to the Alegre label for three original and swinging volumes between 1961 and 1963. In addition he became the musical director of a series of groundbreaking studio descarga (Latin jam session) albums by the Alegre All Stars.

When the charanga fad abated in the mid-'60s, Charlie joined the "swing to brass" and replaced the flute and violins with three trumpets and two trombones to form the Duboney Orchestra for 1965's “Tengo Maquina Y Voy A 60,” on Alegre. Albums on BG, Tico, Atlantic and Mary Lou followed, but by the end of the decade, Charlie's career was in the doldrums. Tito Puente gave him a boost when he hired him as the musical conductor for his television show El Mundo De Tito Puente. When the series finished, Charlie started a parallel career as a lecturer in Latin music and culture.

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