Latin music revolutionary Eddie Palmieri carries on his mission to push salsa and jazz forward | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Latin music revolutionary Eddie Palmieri carries on his mission to push salsa and jazz forward


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Eddie Palmieri will turn 81 in December, but the pianist and bandleader hardly seems ready for retirement. As one of the most revolutionary and paradigm-shifting figures in the history of Latin music, he’s certainly earned the right to take it easy, and while he’s definitely quieted down on the recording front, this year’s Sabiduría/Wisdom (Ropeadope)—his first new studio album in a dozen years—makes it clear his work isn’t finished. Working with a fiery new band of virtuosos including jazz heavies such as bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire, Palmieri dives into a batch of originals from some of the angles he’s utilized over decades of musical innovation, melding soul, funk, and jazz with heavy salsa forms. The arrangements are highlighted by a cavalcade of guest musicians, such as violinist Alfredo de la Fe, whose wonderfully abraded lines spark the smoldering opener, “Cuerdas y Tumbao,” and vibraphonist Joe Locke, who brings an unexpected luminescence to the cha-cha “La Cancha.” It doesn’t all work: the presence of drummer Bernard Purdie, electric guitarist David Spinoza, and bassist Marcus Miller on the title track pushes it toward glib, heavy-handed jazz-funk. On the solo piano track “Life,” Palmieri digs into his instrument, undertaking an intense journey by turns elegiac, stormy, and triumphant while accompanying himself with spontaneous moans and cries—as if what his fingers are articulating isn’t quite enough. For these intimate performances he leads a septet.   v

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