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Home | Research Library | Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
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. 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."

Palmieri's parents immigrated to New York from Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1926 and settled down in Spanish Harlem, a Hispanic neighborhood in Manhattan. Both he and his older brother, the late Charlie Palmieri, were born in New York City. When he was only 8 years old, he used to musically accompany Charlie and together they would enter and participate in many talent contests.

Palmieri attended the city's public school system and here was constantly exposed to music and loved jazz. He took piano lessons for a while and performed at Carnegie Hall when he was 11 years old. His biggest piano influences were Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. Eddie Palmieri is one of the foremost Latin jazz pianists of the last half of the 20th century, blessed with a technique that fuses such ubiquitous jazz influences as the styles of Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, and McCoy Tyner into a Latin context. No purist, he has also shown a welcome willingness to experiment with fusions of Latin and non-Latin music.

He was inspired by his older brother and was determined to someday form his own band - something he achieved in 1950, when he was just 14. During the 1950s, Palmieri played in various bands, including Tito Rodriguez's. 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.

In 1961, Palmieri formed the band Conjunto La Perfecta, which included trombone player Barry Rogers and singer Ismael Quintana. During that decade, the Charanga was the Latin dance craze. The music to the Charanga required an orchestra with a flute and violins, but Eddie also added a mixture of trumpets and trombones. He also experimented by including a touch of jazz in his recordings. He recorded, among others, Lo Que Traigo Es Sabroso (What I Bring is Juicy) and Mozambique, before the group disbanded in 1968.

The Sun of Latin Music
The Sun of Latin Music
Eddie Palmieri & Friends con Lalo Rodriguez
Original Release Date: 1973

In 1971, Palmieri recorded Vamonos Pa'l Monte (Going to the Mountain) with his brother Charlie at the organ. That same year he also recorded Eddie Palmieri & Friends in Concert, At the University of Puerto Rico. In 1974, Eddie won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording with The Sun of Latin Music. On July 21, 1979, he appeared at the Amandla Festival along with Bob Marley, Dick Gregory and Patti LaBelle, amongst others.

In the 1980s, Ismael Quintana returned to the band, which also included Cheo Feliciano. Palmieri won two Grammys for the recordings of Palo Pa Rumba and Solito. He also recorded the album La Verdad (The Truth) with salsa singer Tony Vega in 1987. Next year the happiness of his success was set back by the sudden death of his brother, Charlie.

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. In the 1990s, Palmieri had participated in various concerts and recordings with the Fania All-Stars and the Tico All-Stars; he also introduced La India with the production of Llego La India via Eddie Palmieri (La India has arrived via Eddie Palmieri), released in 1992. In 2000, Palmieri announced his retirement from the world of music.

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.

He recorded Masterpiece with Tito Puente and won 2 Grammys; additionally he was also named the "Outstanding Producer of the Year" by the National Foundation of Popular Culture. Palmieri has won a total of 9 Grammy Awards in his career, most recently for his 2006 album Simpático. On November 6, 2004, Palmieri directed a "Big Band Tribute" to his late brother Charlie at Avery Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Eddie Palmieri continues to be actively involved with music. He formed a new band La Perfecta II, with whom he recorded the CD Ritmo Caliente (Hot Rhythm). On April 30, 2005, "Mi Día Bonito" a tribute to Eddie Palmieri, celebrating his 50 years in the world of music, took place at the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The event included the participation of Lalo Rodriguez, Ismael Quintana, Cheo Feliciano, La India, Herman Olivera, Jerry Medina, Luis Vergara and Wichy Camacho.

In November/December 2005, Eddie teamed up with longtime trumpeter and bandmember Brian Lynch to record the Artistshare CD release, "The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project: Simpático." This CD and accompanying multimedia web site features music by an all-star roster of jazz and Latin jazz artists, including: Phil Woods, Lila Downs, Donald Harrison, Conrad Herwig, Giovanni Hidalgo, Gregory Tardy, Mario Rivera, Boris Kozlov, Ruben Rodriguez, Luques Curtis, Robby Ameen, Dafnis Prieto, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Rivero, Edsel Gomez, Yosvany Terry. In 2007, the recording was awarded a Grammy as the best Latin Jazz Recording.

Sources: Eddie Palmieri's website,, Wikipedia, et al

Bolding added by BAILA Society


La Perfecta, 1962

El Molestoso, 1963

Lo Que Traigo Es Sabroso, 1964

Echando Pa'lante (Straight Ahead), 1964

Azucar Pa'ti (Sugar for You), 1965

Mozambique, 1965

El Sonido Nuevo: The New Soul Sound, 1966 (with Cal Tjader)

Bamboleate, 1967 (with Cal Tjader)

Molasses, 1967

Champagne, 1968

Justicia, 1969

Superimposition, 1970

Vamonos Pa'l Monte, 1971

Live at the University of Puerto Rico, 1971

Harlem River Drive, 1971 (as part of Harlem River Drive band)

Recorded Live at Sing Sing, Vol. 1, 1972

Recorded Live at Sing Sing, Vol. 2, 1972

Sentido, 1973

The Sun of Latin Music (with Lalo Rodriguez), 1974

Unfinished Masterpiece, 1974

Lucumi, Macumba, Voodoo, 1978

Eddie Palmieri, 1982

Palo Pa Rumba, 1984

Solito, 1985

The Truth, La Verdad, 1987

Sueno, 1992

Llego La India via Eddie Palmieri, 1992 (with La India)

Palmas, 1994

Arete, 1995

Vortex, 1996

El Rumbero Del Piano, 1998

Live, 1999

Masterpiece / Obra Maestra, 2000 (with Tito Puente)

En Vivo Italia, 2002

La Perfecta II, 2002

Ritmo Caliente, 2003

Listen Here!, 2005

The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project: Simpático, 2006