EDDIE PALMIERI OCTET
Ladies and gentlemen, piano powerhouse Eddie Palmieri--y sus mensajeros de jazz? At the beginning of his innovative career--when he scaled the barriers separating the music of Cuba and his native Puerto Rico, merging the two traditions in his increasingly bebop-influenced piano playing--Palmieri drew praise as salsa's answer to Duke Ellington. True to the famous Ellington encomium, Palmieri's music did--and still does--reach "beyond category." But these days the hard-bop drummer and bandleader Art Blakey makes a more appropriate referent. Palmieri's current band provides an Afro-Latin translation of Blakey's famous Jazz Messengers, complete with two alumni of the Blakey bands--the increasingly individualistic saxist Donald Harrison, who played with the Messengers in the mid-80s, and the breezy and delightful trumpeter Brian Lynch, who played with Blakey until the latter's death in 1990. Instead of the trap set that Blakey used to such explosive advantage, Palmieri features one man on congas and one on timbales and occasionally joins in on hand drums himself. But for the most part Palmieri uses the keyboard to achieve the excitement of Blakey's hard-bop drumming--albeit with a Caribbean accent. Like his music, Palmieri's piano draws from a variety of sources, emerging as something unique and romantic, iconoclastic and filled with fireworks: it broods and exults, slashes and burns, and can even grab center stage from the surging big bands he's led throughout the years. Palmieri's octet plays the first half of a Latin-jazz spectacular, opening the show for percussionist Tito Puente and his full-size Latin Jazz Ensemble featuring three guest artists: the high-blown trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (from Cuba), the equally virtuosic saxophonist David Sanchez (Puerto Rico), and the Mexican-American master conguero Poncho Sanchez (no relation). Wednesday, 8 PM, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Eddie Palmieri by Marc PoKempner.