Eddie Palmieri [1936- ]
Born to Puerto Rican parents in New York, Eddie Palmieri began to play timbales at age eight to accompany performances by his older brother, pianist Charlie Palmieri. Their mother encouraged Eddie to take up piano also, which he did, eventually developing a distinctive style that blended Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the quirky phrasing of Thelonious Monk and the harmonies of McCoy Tyner.
After a stint as pianist with the prestigious Tito Rodríguez orchestra in the late 1950s, Eddie left to form his own band, La Perfecta. Modeled on a Cuban-style charanga ensemble of piano, bass, violins, flute, and percussion, La Perfecta used trombones in place of violins (Eddie’s brother Charlie jokingly called the group a “trombanga”).
Palmieri’s use of trombones foreshadowed one of the iconic instrumental sounds of salsa music. In La Perfecta and later groups he developed a distinctive arranging style, featuring edgy harmonies and exciting riffs and breaks for the horn section. His music featured extended grooves for instrumental improvisation, connecting the Latin Caribbean tradition of vocal improvisation (soneo) with the improvisational excitement of jazz.
A commanding piano player and arranger who knows how to get the best out of his musicians, Palmieri has recorded over 40 albums, often pushing the envelope but always grooving and danceable. He is the recipient of nine Grammy Awards, has two honorary doctorates and his album Azúcar Pa Tí (1965) was inducted into the 2009 National Recording Registry of the United States Library of Congress.