Written by Grant Jackson from NPR
On this episode of Piano Jazz, pianist and 2013 NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri brings along bassist Hugo Duran and percussionists Jose Claussell, Richie Flores, and Mark Quinones for a raucous set of original tunes with an Afro-Caribbean flavor.
Palmieri was born in 1936 and spent his childhood in New York’s Spanish Harlem. Both he and his older brother Charlie studied piano when they were children, and both showed great promise. Charlie would go on to a successful career as a pianist and bandleader, working with such greats as Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. Eddie soon followed his brother into the music business.
As a teenager, Eddie Palmieri briefly took up the drums, playing timbales in his uncle’s group. By age 15, though, Palmieri had returned to the piano and formed his own nine-piece band. He began playing professionally in the 1950s, cutting his teeth with a number of Latin groups, including Eddie Forrester’s Orchestra, Johnny Segui’s band and the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra. In 1961, Palmieri formed his own band, Conjunto La Perfecta, which distinguished itself with the addition of a trombone section and a flute.
Palmieri has released more than 30 albums as a leader. In 1974, his album The Sun of Latin Music received the first Grammy Award ever given for Best Latin Album. He’s won a total of nine Grammys in his career, most recently in 2007 for The Bryan Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project: Simpático, an album featuring an all-star lineup of jazz and Latin artists. In 2004, Palmieri directed a “Big Band Tribute” to his late brother Charlie at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Avery Hall.
Originally recorded Jan. 31, 1997. Originally broadcast Oct. 4, 1997.