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Eddie Palmieri: Ritmo Caliente

Eddie Palmieri’s current refashioning of the 40-plus-year-old style that started his career as a leader with the group La Perfecta enters its second phase with this release. After last year’s La Perfecta II, the pianist returns with further bravura and street-smart upmanship, mashed into nastified riff-laden arrangements featuring plenty of abandon, grandeur and harmonically dark and heavy left-hand playing. Even in his most sensitive moments, as in the encasing bolero portions of “Tema Para Renee” that segues into straightahead jazz with Palmieri bopping it up, his playing reminds one of Klingon poetry: a sort of melodically perfumed testosterone and harmonic adrenaline.

To be sure, the Nuyorican’s take on Bach’s harmonic prowess in “Gique (Bach Goes Bata)” will get loads of attention. Perhaps Gunther Schuller can identify it as a premiere example of Latin third stream jazz. In the bolero-son montuno “Dime,” one can hear singer Herman Olivera’s excellent rendition of the slow danceable portion, an acknowledged talent of his, albeit the vocal mix could have brought him up throughout the record. The recording, however, is truly a dancer’s affair, from the controversial swinging Puerto Rican macho lyrics of “La Voz del Caribe,” to the sweet cha tightness of “Lazaro y su Microfono,” on to the barrio entreaties of “Sujetate la Lengua.”

This is Palmieri’s tightest and most relaxed band in recent memory. They are a superb bunch providing plenty of memorable moments behind the master’s swinging and cascading discombobulation of the piano.

Originally Published