Born: December 15, 1936 Primary Instrument: Piano
Eddie Palmieri's musical career spans 50 years as a bandleader of salsa and Latin jazz orchestras. His discography includes more than 32 titles. He has been awarded Eight Grammys, including the first presentation in the Best Latin Album category for his 1975 release The Sun of Latin Music, and the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece. Palo Pa' Rumba won in 1984, Solito in 1985 and La Verdad in 1987. He received two Grammy's for his 2000 release with Tito Puente Obra Maestra/Masterpiece one from the traditional Grammy awards and one from the Latin Grammy's.
He was awarded the Eubie Blake Award by Dr. Billy Taylor in 1991 and he is among the few Latin musicians recognized by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico and the New York State Assembly. In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution recorded two of Palmieri's performances for their catalog of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., a rare public honor.
The 1998 Heineken Jazz Festival in San Juan, PR, paid tribute to his contributions as a bandleader, bestowing him an honorary doctorate degree from the Berklee College of Music. In 2002, Yale University awarded Mr. Palmieri the Chubb Fellowship, an award usually reserved for international heads of state, but given to him in recognition of his work in building communities through music.
As a member of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, he was instrumental in creating a new category for Latin Jazz in 1995. His 1994 album, Palmas, was among the nominees for the first award presented in that category in March 1995. In 1996, he was once again nominated for his album Arete. In 2006, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) awarded Eddie Palmieri's newest release, Listen Here!, the Grammy in the Best Latin Jazz Album category. In 2007, NARAS again chose a Palmieri collaboration with Brian Lynch entitled Simpatico as the Best Latin Jazz Album of the year. This was Eddie Palmieri's 9th Grammy in a musical career that spans over 50 years. The award was presented on February 11, 2007 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Born in Spanish Harlem in 1936, Palmieri began piano studies at an early age, as did his celebrated older brother, the late salsa legend and pianist Charlie Palmieri. For Latin New Yorkers of Eddie's generation, music was a vehicle out of the barrio. At age 11, he auditioned at Weil Recital Hall, next door to Carnegie Hall, a venue as far from the Bronx as he could imagine. Possessed by a desire to play the drums, Palmieri joined his uncle's orchestra at age 13, where he played the timbales. Says Palmieri, By 15, it was good-bye timbales' and back to the piano until this day. I'm a frustrated percussionist, so I take it out on the piano.
He began his professional career as a pianist in the early '50s with Eddie Forrester's Orchestra. In 1955 he joined Johnny Segui's band. He spent a year with the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra before forming his own band, the legendary Conjunto La Perfecta, in 1961. La Perfecta featured a trombone section (led by the late Barry Rogers) in place of trumpets, something that had been rarely done in Latin music, and which demonstrated the early stages of Palmieri's unconventional means of orchestration. They were known as the band with the crazy roaring elephants for the configuration of two trombones, flute, percussion, bass and vocalist. With an infectious and soaring sound, Palmieri's band soon joined the ranks of Machito, Tito Rodriguez, and the other major Latin orchestras of the day.
Palmieri's influences include not only his older brother Charlie but Jesus Lopez, Chapotin, Lili Martinez and other Cuban players of the1940s; and jazz luminaries Art Tatum, Bobby Timmons, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Equally important were influences derived from Palmieri's curiosity and incessant search to unearth his family's roots and seek out the origins of the music that profoundly inspired him. Says Palmieri, In Cuba, there was a development and crystallization of rhythmical patterns that have excited people for years. Cuban music provides the fundamental from which I never move. Whatever has to be built must be built from there. It's that cross-cultural effect that makes magnificent music. His solid interpretation of Afro-Caribbean music and its confluence with jazz is evident in Eddie Palmieri's astute arranging skills, which assemble those components in dramatic and compelling compositions.
His accomplishments have taken him through Europe, Japan and Latin America, showcasing his assemblage of seasoned musicians and kaleidoscope of musical styles. He served as a consultant to Paul Simon on his 1990 release Rhythm of the Saints and in 1993 was appointed to the board of governors of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science. His interest is in expanding recognition of Latin music in its diverse forms.
Palmieri remains a powerhouse of brilliance and sound that has stirred audiences for 50 years, continually and successfully seeking to captivate and elevate the senses, and taking them down paths of intensity to a place where there are no musical boundaries.