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Eddie Palmieri: Mi Luz Mayor (Ropeadope)

Review of album featuring the pianist playing his late wife's favorite songs with a 22-piece band

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Cover of Eddie Palmieri album Mi Luz Mayor
Cover of Eddie Palmieri album Mi Luz Mayor

Mi Luz Mayor is both followup and sequel to Full Circle, pianist and bandleader Eddie Palmieri’s summer 2018 revisiting of the most popular tunes in his book. This time out, he plays the favorite songs of his wife, Iraida (who died in 2014). The music, performed by a 22-piece ensemble—including such Palmieri regulars as trumpeter Brian Lynch, trombonist Conrad Herwig, and baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, as well as salsa stars Gilberto Santa Rosa and Hermán Olivera—dates from the golden age of salsa and is true to that era. It avoids new approaches along with Palmieri’s own signatures, like his trombones-and-flute front line. This stuff sounds classic.

Which also means that it’s not the place to look for meaty improvisation. The closest it gets to Palmieri-style jazz is on the funky “Mi Congo,” on which Carlos Santana does fiery solo work. Otherwise, the features go to the vocalists: Santa Rosa commits himself equally to the heartfelt ballad “Que Falta Tu Me Haces” and the irrepressible hip-shaker “Sun Sun Bae,” while Olivera sounds as much like a crooner on the strident “Yo Soy Mulato” as on the wistful “Soñando con Puerto Rico.” When they are quiet, the music is all ensemble, either a solid reef of bright horns or tangled layers of drums and percussion.

Except, that is, for Palmieri himself, whose montunos are omnipresent—and precise, varying not a note or beat even when the pianist is alone in the mix with bassist Luques Curtis and as many as five percussionists. If that doesn’t tickle the intellect, it does make sitting still nearly impossible. Palmieri is one of the world’s foremost living authorities on dance grooves of any sort; Mi Luz Mayor doesn’t innovate or reinvent, but why bother when it can move like this?

Preview or download Mi Luz Mayor on Amazon!

Originally Published