Café with Eddie Palmieri: on Salsa, Latin Jazz, and new albums – Part 2


In this part of my “virtual coffee” with Latin music maestro Eddie Palmieri, he gets into what he defines as Salsa and Latin Jazz, provides his view on pop-Salsa, and talks about the presentations this week at the Jazz Alley in Seattle with his Latin Jazz band.

Let’s get right back into it…

LMC: …and talking about Salsa, there will be a celebration of the 50 years of the birth of Salsa in your parent’s hometown of Ponce, PR this month. It’s kind of hard to place an exact year for the birth of most music genres, but this places the birth of Salsa in 1965. You formed La Perfecta in 1961.
Do you agree the genre of Salsa originated around 1965? Do you think there is an agreed definition for what is Salsa?

Latin music legends Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri
Tito Puente’s last recording was a true masterpiece (“Obra Maestra”) with Eddie Palmieri.

EP: The word “Salsa” is totally a misnomer. All these rhythmical patterns have their own name and identity. For example, Rumba, Guaguanco, Son Montuno etc….. The record company Fania Records headed by Jerry Masucci in the 60’s 70’s for commercialism put the tag “Salsa” . I believe the word “Salsa” originated in the early 70’s.

[Latin Music History note: many other artists agree with Palmieri on the “misnomer” of the word “Salsa”. Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval, and Juan de Marcos, among many, have expressed that the term Salsa is a mix of rhythms, and each has and should be called by their proper name.

That said, one of the elements that characterizes Salsa is the mixtures of these rhythms within a song, whereas before, a song would normally (but not necessarily) be of a single rhythm, making it easier to classify. This, along with the jazz brass elements introduced by Machito and Mario Bauza, and the replacement of the older rural theme lyrics with contemporary lyrics reflecting situations of urban life in NYC, were all combined to give this sound the nomer of “Salsa”.

Perhaps it was also a way to identify a new modality in Latin music, after the “Mambo”, “Charanga”, “Pachanga”, and “Boogaloo” crazes came and passed.]

Ok, that was a rather long note. Back to my “virtual coffee” with Eddie Palmieri…

Latin music greats Cal Tjader and Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri collaborated with Jazz master Cal Tjader in two full Latin Jazz albums in 1966 & 1967.

LMC: (Puerto Rican Salsa singer) Victor Manuelle commented that there doesn’t need to be just one type of Salsa, but that there is room for traditional/classic Salsa as well as for the more contemporary pop-Salsa (“Salsa romantica”).
What’s your take on this?

EP: Victor Manuelle is entitled to his opinion. He is a very very talented vocalist and he has traveled internationally with his unique sound. However, if I recorded what has been taking place over the last 20 years from the majority of artists I would personally be in the hospital. My sadness and internal suffering would have led me to the emergency ward.

LMC: 🙂

[Latin Music note: maestro Palmieri is referring to the blandness of pop-Salsa, which is known to cause acute cases of “boredom-nitis musicalicus” which will land individuals with a creative musical mind straight in the hospital.
As Oscar Hernandez (Spanish Harlem Orchestra) described it in a previous interview (link HERE), pop-Salsa highlights the singer with a plain-vanilla Salsa background that serves as a cookie-cutter formula to plug-and-play a new lyric, song after song, after song. It’s used mostly by younger artists and provided a few of them with great commercial success, but is quite far from the richness with which Salsa music was originally played.]

Now moving to the topic of Latin Jazz…

LMC: On that line, the definition of Latin Jazz seems to also have some ambiguity. Some define it as Jazz with Afro-Cuban percussive elements incorporated in it. Others (by examining some nominations for Latin Jazz awards) will classify Latin Jazz as any Jazz performed by a Latin artist.
How do you define Latin Jazz?

EP: Latin-Jazz is the fusion of the 21st century. The most complex rhythmical patterns with the great harmonic structures of Jazz. Today there are different variations most artists play Jazz-Latin which is their interpretation. Personally, I stay true to the traditional /fundamental which I learned prior to the doctrine change in Cuba 1959. Traditional rhythm section bass/timbales/congas/bongo. Instrumental Mambos with extensions.

I can’t resist to give you a taste of what Mr. Palmieri is talking about . Here’s a YouTube audio of Palmieri’s “Palmas” (1994), a tune that showcases the energy and musicality of the Palmieri signature sound.

LMC: Which younger artists or new musical styles or tendencies make you optimistic of the future of Latin Jazz?

EP: There are many young and gifted musicians worldwide in every genre. I personally, listen to Classical Music every day. I plan on making my Classical Debut when I become a real pianist by 2020.

[Note: you can easily sense maestro Palmieri’s humor, but don’t overlook his continuous musical curiosity, which is probably what keeps him going strong into his 70’s]

LMC: What can artists and the music industry do to enhance the popularity of Jazz and Latin Jazz?

Latin music maestro Eddie Palmieri
The passion and intensity of Eddie Palmieri’s music is always present. He’s not afraid to throw an elbow at the piano, and make it sound good!

EP: Well things are more difficult for the young artists today. There are no more recording companies that promote them long term. Also, no commercial radio play throughout North America has not only hurt me but them more so.

LMC: What would a glimpse at “a week in the life of Eddie Palmieri” look like?

EP: I have been blessed to travel internationally . This past weekend in Cancun we had over 5,000 people in the Oasis Hotel Resort. The Salsa Orchestra destroyed that place… Lol

LMC: For the Jazz Alley presentations you will bring your Latin Jazz band.
What can the Seattle area music fans expect?

EP: Regarding the Jazz Alley, we have not been there in 3-4 years so we pray the community will come to see the greatest Latin-Jazz Band in the world. Period!

Final Latin Music History note:
Eddie Palmieri was one of a handful of artists that took on Salsa and Latin Jazz from the very beginning and strait from the forefathers of these genres. Besides Latin music “Big 3” (Machito, Puente, & Rodriguez), Palmieri, along the likes of Ray Barretto, Ricardo Ray, Willie Rosario, and others, kept playing the danceable rhythms of Pachanga, Boogaloo, and what was later known as Salsa, along with Latin Jazz tunes.

Eddie Palmieri, along with Barretto, was among the notable few artists from the 60’s that kept a Salsa band, and a Latin Jazz format as well. He continues to do that to this day! His music is equally energizing, and his live performances provide a unique musical experience that only a legendary true icon of Latin music can provide!

Eddie Palmieri will perform with his Latin Jazz band at Dimitrious Jazz Alley in Seattle this week (May 26 to May 30th).

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  1. Héctor L González Falcón says

    Yeah , lets get right back into it! Maestro Palmieri is a Master at what he has done for so many years and that in no minomer.

    ***I first want to respectfully agree to disagree .
    ***Maestro means that he dominates and masters all about the music he understands as a language.

    Eddie Palmieri is just that, a person who Masters because he dared to use all of the elements of his musical experiences gathered with the best during different times of his musical evolution.
    His curiosity , made the difference in combining knowledge of the subject matter that has made him an authority.
    ***In every sense a true Maestro! He has refused to be another one of the bunch, he has paved his own way !

    ***Before salsa was salsa per say, all the musical blends, such as Guaguanco, Son Montuno , Mambo, Charanga , Pachanga , Etc. Etc. were clearly distinct and had their own musical definitions and identities , in my opinion that still remains.

    ***It Is my humble opinion and belief that the Maestros are just that because of their curiosity to experiment with out fear, their innate gift,their longevity in the music panorama , musical experimentation and gathered experiences. I believe that this is true of all who have been successful and have lived long enough to talk, share their Musical experiences that have left a mark.

    The masterfulness of being an Eddie Palmieri , Charlie Plamieri, Tito Rodriguez,Tito Puente, Cal T’Jader ,Cachao,Machito , Pacheco ,Sandoval,Juan De Marcos is that they did not rebel against the future and were not afraid to put together their knowledge and pick each others brains and Jam until they came up with new music that was innovative to their fan base as it was to them.
    ***Palmieri has always been an innovator,always coming up with new musical experiments In the latin music (salsa) as well as Jazz. He has been there with best always.
    That is why he is Palmieri the Maestro, a true pioneer of new sounds, that makes musical notes, melodies, incorporating new instruments with his talent in what ever genre he performs. He has truly left a mark in the Music industry since he started.

    Who would have imagined he would was capable of coming up with a number like Azucar ,Los Cueros me llaman,Cuidate Compay , Mi Sonsito, El tema del Apollo ,Oye lo que te conviene, in 1965 and these would become the beginning of His unforgettable success in the Latin Music, as it was called in the sixties by another Maestro called Symphony Sid. I remember I use to listen to His latin music Show every night on the radio while I was a youngster in NYC.
    ***There is no Latin , Salsa ,Music, no Jazz , without inserting Eddie Palmieri into the conversation. Of course that there where others ,but we now speak of Palmieri!

    ***Eddie Palmieri ,dared to organized la perfecta and come up with (latin music ) that would later be called salsa anthems, for many more decades there after. This principle applies to all the maestros above mentioned , some that are gone and some that still are around to continue their journey in making a difference.

    *** The Palmieri’s had me ,ever since, I heard their first musical experiments. Their
    motivation for life was music , they collectively made good musical habits and kept their eye on the bouncing ball.

    Eddie Palmieri’s opinion has to be respected even if some differ because he has always been at the Top( La cima) .And in my opinion will remain there throughout his existence. He is second d to none! He will shine in all his musical endeavors for he is brilliant ,gifted and not afraid to share , he is not a follower .This is what makes Him a true maestro .His knowledge of Music gives him power and authority. He and the company he keeps are true originals, the rest are imitations! He doesn’t need me to say this , but I’ll say it anyway.

    He has always been a versatile musician. That is why he has survive the dog eat dog, world in which he is leader. He is and will always be the Big Dog.

    Everyone that is looking for a name in the Salsa , Latin genre wants to be in a project with King Eddie.
    ***This part one of part 2 —- There is to much to write. About this exceptional man, musician and Maestro.

    ***Once again My thanks for the opportunity to share the opinions of my passion. Thank You “Tocayo” ….Héctor L. González Falcón

    God bless !!

  2. […] Part 2 of Café with Eddie Palmieri, the maestro will share his views on the state of Salsa, Latin Jazz, and a peak at his life these […]

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