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Take Five with Emilio Palame

Take Five with Emilio Palame

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Meet Emilio Palame

Emilio Palame is a seasoned jazz pianist, composer/arranger, producer/director and actor residing in Los Angeles.


Piano, composer/arranger

Teachers and/or influences?

Self taught at first then studied with Buffalo, NY's premier jazz piano teacher Russ Messina—went on to SUNY Fredonia where I ran the Jazz Ensemble program for four years winning "Outstanding Composer Arranger" and "Outstanding Pianist" at the prestigious Notre Dame College Jazz Festival in 1977.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I played my neighbors' piano in their garage when I was five years old. I connected to it immediately!

Your sound and approach to music.

I have always relied on my instincts whether it be playing, composing, arranging, orchestrating or producing. My style has been shaped by listening to and studying the jazz greats.

Your teaching approach

Have fun learning, yet be disciplined and focused. A short amount of focused practice and study is worth more than lengthy scattered work.

Your dream band

A cross between Thad Jones, Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Tower of Power, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and Steely Dan!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Central Park West. The arrangements and playing are fantastic.

Road story: Your best or worst experience.

My best experience on the road was playing at The Ballroom jazz club in New York City accompanying the legendary Miss Peggy Lee. Tony Bennett was in the audience and came back stage afterwards and gave me a big bear hug and said, "now there's a pianist!" Wow.

Favorite venue:

The Performing Arts Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Having produced, arranged, orchestrated, directed and acted in the feature film Knights of Swing soon to be released on Vimeo on demand. Set in 1947 this film chronicles the journey of a young group of high school jazz musicians whose dream is to form a really swingin' big band. They encounter many obstacles but their love for the music brings them all together. The movie has fantastic original big band compositions that highlight the joy of swing era music.

Did you know...

The first jazz album I bought was: Dave Brubeck's Take Five

Music you are listening to now:

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis
Count Basie
Steely Dan
Chuck Mangione
Darlene Koldenhoven

Desert Island picks:

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Central Park North
The Beatles Abby Road
Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas
Miles Davis Kinda Blue

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Jazz has been evolving over the last few decades and seems to be fortunately headed away from the innocuous elevator music sound of smooth jazz.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

The pandemic has really hurt the live performance venues for jazz, but things are getting back up in terms of artists performing, which is essential to keep the art form alive and growing.

What is in the near future?

The future is wide open, hopefully we can play more live shows as the coronavirus continues to dissipate.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

Staying relaxed to give the most genuine approach to my improvisations.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"The Groove Merchant" by Thad Jones/Mel Lewis

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

"The Victory Stomp" (from Knights of Swing)

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be:

An actor/director (which I also am).

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?

Barack Obama

What's your favorite wine, spirit or adult beverage?

Johnny Walker Blue Label Scotch



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