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Latin, Jazz Sounds Merge in Hands of Mambo King

July 10, 2008

By DEBORAH RAMIREZ

By Deborah Ramirez

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Nine-time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri has reigned as a true mambo king for 50 years, absorbing the sounds of Puerto Rico and New York into his particular fusion of salsa and jazz.

Yet Palmieri rarely uses the word “salsa” – a misnomer, in his opinion – to describe what he does.

“Unfortunately, the term was created to generalize all these great dance rhythms that have their own proper names – mambo, chachacha, rumba, guaguanco, yambu, guaracha, danzon,” said Palmieri, 72, from his home in Queens, N.Y. “All lumped into one word, salsa, to make it easier to commercialize.”

Palmieri, who performs Saturday at the Norfolk Latino Music Festival, has helped commercialize and revolutionize Latin dance music.

A pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader, Palmieri drew inspiration from the mambo kings who came before him: Machito, Mario Bauz, Tito Rodrguez and Beny More, to name a few. Together with his older brother Charlie (also a pianist), Eddie took Afro-Cuban rhythms, already influenced by big-band American jazz, to a higher level.

The Palmieri brothers, who were born in Spanish Harlem a few years after their parents migrated from Puerto Rico, helped pioneer a new Latin urban sound, which included the trombone and jazz piano solos, and gave birth to the salsa revival of the 1970s.

After Charlie died in 1988 and the salsa craze faded, Palmieri settled into the role of respected Latin jazz master. In 2007, he earned his ninth Grammy for the recording “The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project: Simpatico.”

But he’s still a rumbero at heart, carrying on a legacy that began with African slaves beating their tambores, or drums, on Caribbean plantations.

“The drum was never allowed in the United States “But the drum was brought into the Caribbean, where it evolved and developed, particularly in Cuba. Cuba influenced the rest of the Caribbean and the world. And then the orchestras in New York helped make this the most popular music in the world to dance.”

Palmieri isn’t disturbed that reggaeton is driving more young Latinos to the dance floor these days.

“People said the same thing about boogaloo,” a 1960s fusion of Latin music and American doo-wop. “The kids always have their favorite music that is popular at a certain time, but our genre of dance music certainly has the ability to withstand anything at any time.

“As long as someone is playing the drums, Latin dance music will continue.”

And in Palmieri’s case, as long as he’s playing the piano.

if you go

What AT&T Norfolk Latino Music Festival, featuring Eddie Palmieri and La Perfecta II

When 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday

Where Town Point Park, Norfolk

Tickets Free; (757) 441-2345 if you go

What Norfolk Latino Music Festival, featuring Eddie Palmieri and La Perfecta II

When 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday

Where Town Point Park, Norfolk

Tickets Free; (757) 441-2345

Originally published by BY DEBORAH RAMIREZ.

(c) 2008 Virginian – Pilot. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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