Just a couple of weeks ago, on Sunday, December 9th, I was able to attend a jazz concert in Baltimore at the new Keystone Corner Jazz Club and listen to the incomparable Eddie Palmieri and his Jazz Sextet. It happened to be the day of Eddie's 83 birthday and he was in fine spirits and even better form. We celebrated together backstage since my good friend, Rene Lopez, a close Eddie friend for more than 40 years, had come down from NYC to attend the concert as well.
Eddie Palmieri is the last remaining great salsa and Latin Jazz planer of the golden era of New York salsa. Gone is his brother Charlie Palmieri, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, all great musicians who lit up the salsa scene from New York City from the early 50's through the new century. Palmieri remains a working musician who tours with his Sextet. He also performs with his big band salsa orchestra when the occasion permits and continues to travel the world (he is booked here in DC in June of 2020). He has surrounded himself with a tight, highly skilled group that includes the gifted trumpet player Jonathan Powell and saxophonist Luis Fouché, he of Late Show with Colbert fame. His percussionists are always famous top of the line guys (Jerry Rivero and Luisito Quintero in this case) and his offerings mostly self compositions. He began the evening with a jazz version of 'Adoracion', one of his most classic tunes and extended into a piano solo riff that all of us who know the tune and follow his music could understand and relate to. The group played everything from bossa nova to Cal Tjader and Thelonious Monk.
It was my second visit to the Keystone Corner Club (both times to see Eddie) and we were very pleased to see a thriving new jazz club down in the new neighborhood of Baltimore they call Harbor East. Palmieri is one of those 'swinging' music legends like Tony Bennett or Willie Nelson who just dazzles the public with his virtuosity, joy and sense of humor eon stage.
Eddie recently put out an album with Gilberto Santarosa and Carlos Santana. Still going strong, with a fabulous sense of humor and strong chops, it's a wonder to just watch him play. Generations of Puerto Ricans were influenced by his recordings such as; 'Muñeca', 'Vamonos P'al Monte', 'Nada de Ti', 'Oyelo que te Conviene' and many, many more. Music that has defined our times as Latinos living in the U.S.