Eddie Palmieri | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Eddie Palmieri


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A few years back Puerto Rican pianist Eddie Palmieri re-formed his classic salsa band, La Perfecta, which in the 60s transformed the genre's typical three-minute dance tunes into extended blowing sessions, adding jagged rhythms and avant-garde harmonies to the deeply soulful vocals, irresistible percolating percussion, and punchy contrapuntal arrangements that make salsa so thrilling and sensual. But Palmieri also loves jazz--he's been coming back to it for decades--and earlier this year, after two terrific albums with the new La Perfecta lineup, he released Listen Here! (Concord Picante), a hard-core Latin-jazz set that mixes originals and, for the first time in the pianist's career, standards (including tunes by Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, and Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo). Palmieri has enlisted a crowd of hotshot guests--Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Nicholas Payton, Regina Carter--but what really makes the disc special are the drum-tight arrangements (most by trombonist Doug Beavers of La Perfecta) and the handful of intimate small-group numbers, among them a quicksilver duet with bassist John Benitez ("Tema para Eydie") and a knotty trio with Scofield and Benitez ("La gitana"). At this free show, a prelude to the ticketed Symphony Center concert that formally kicks off the Chicago Jazz Festival later in the evening, Palmieri will duet with trumpeter Brian Lynch, also a regular member of La Perfecta--a format that all but guarantees an emphasis on the pianist's prodigious skills as an improviser. (For the complete Jazz Festival schedule, see page TK.) Palmieri will also play with La Perfecta at around 5 PM on Sunday, September 4, as part of the annual Fiesta Boricua, on Division between Western and Mozart; at noon on Thursday, September 1, his medallion on the Paseo Boricua Walk of Fame will be unveiled at 2733 W. Division. Thu 9/1, 5:30 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.

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