Sandy's Place - Eddie Palmieri
at Lincoln Center

One afternoon, several years ago, I was on the phone with my friend Gabby. Gabby worked for Sotheby's, at that point in the Latin American department I believe, and we were discussing a 1955 portrait by Rufino Tamayo. I happened to be listening to some Bill Evans, and Gabby asked me if I liked jazz, to which I replied, yes, my favorite music. She then started with, "Well you know, my dad's a jazz musician....." I didn't have to let her finish, Gabriela Palmieri's dad is the 10 time Grammy winner, Eddie Palmieri. Since then, I have heard Eddie about a dozen times in many different venues. In Baltimore at An Die Music (small 50 person room) with Brian Lynch (a fantastic trumpet player who often plays with Eddie), at the Blue Note (not my favorite venue, but Gabby got us good seats), the Highline Ballroom (big hall with horrible sound), the 92nd Street Y, and many more.

Eddie Palmieri 1

Last Saturday night, I was lucky to have scored some fabulous seats for Eddie's 80th Birthday Celebration at Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center (5th row center, perfect). Anne was supposed to be with me, but she stayed in Baltimore, recovering from the flu, so I invited my friend David Chesky, who was excited to come. It turns out that Eddie's brother, Gabby's uncle, Charlie Palmieri, was David's piano teacher! Now David, who is a master musician in many genres, is very picky about music, and finds much of it rather boring. Not so that evening, as David was often heard shouting Bravo, Bravo, after every song.

That evening Eddie was leading a big band, with 18 or 20 master Latin musicians, and it was AMAZING!!!! There were 3 percussionists, several trombonists, three trumpet players (including the great Brian Lynch, of course), and just great musician after great musician (and for the second set they were joined by three vocalists including the great Herman Olivera, an amazing dude). And, of course, Eddie on piano. 

Eddie Palmieri 3

Eddie was just having a blast, and he said, I believe quite honestly, that this was the best big band that he had ever played with. And they were great. The Latin rhythms were just scintillatingly sensuous: complex and wonderful. The rich sound of the whole band was really very special, and I have heard some great ones, led by Duke Ellington and Count Basie, to name a couple. But the really salient point was that, while Eddie played his piano like the master musician that he is, with some nice solos, both lyrical and rhythmic, Eddie's real instrument was his band. When a great bandleader like Eddie performs, it is not about him taking many showy solos. Rather, the master has the band playing like a well oiled machine, perfectly in gear together and making an absolutely joyous sound. I have heard the same thing with other great bandleaders, like Ellington, Basie and Mingus. Oh, they tease us with some great solos, but what they deliver is like the music of the Gods, thru their musicians. Apparently the band had only two days of rehearsals, but they sounded like they had been playing together for years.

Eddie Palmieri 2

After the concert Gabby took us backstage to see her dad. She said that he was excited to see me (we had met previously) and was excited to order a new pair of speakers (Triton Ones or perhaps References), to replace the previous speakers that he got from us several years ago. Unfortunately, I think Eddie was a little tired (after all he is 80 years old, even though you would never know it, to watch him perform), and left a little early. Gabby says we will get together for lunch to figure out which speakers will be best for the maestro. I am very excited as well, and looking forward to our lunch together.
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