Percussion is paramount in Latin jazz, but rhythm is the real essential; in the end, a killing clave groove can exist without the aid of congas or timbales. That was the thesis of a recent Baltimore performance by pianist Eddie Palmieri’s trio with the trumpeter/flugelhornist Brian Lynch, a collaborator of more than two decades, and bassist Luques Curtis. Without the explicit beat-keeping one might expect from one of Palmieri or Lynch’s fleshed-out working bands, this threesome created an impressive amount of Latin-jazz thrust. When the group softened its sense of propulsion, other, often overlooked assets came to the fore-namely the towering abilities of these players in a straightahead setting.
The atmosphere made for cozy dissection and a cheerful sort of study. This first set of two on Sunday, Dec. 20, was scheduled for 3 p.m., a last-minute matinee to replace the prior evening’s gigs, cancelled due to a record-breaking snowstorm. Those who were able to dig out and make it to An die Musik’s upstairs recital hall on Sunday gave off the impression of being delivered from cabin fever. Enthusiastic, perhaps even overzealous, the audience made up for its diminished numbers with unyielding applause. At a venue of already intense intimacy, things felt even chummier than usual. (You want harder proof? In honor of Palmieri’s 73rd birthday, cake was served between sets.)