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Festivals Report

#SJZSummerFest: Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band

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Eddia Palmieri at The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2015

Live in Concert at the Kaiser Permanente Main Stage – #SJZSummerFest

I’ve been listening and dancing to Eddie Palmieri’s music for more years than I care to mention. My mother danced to his music at the Palladium Ballroom, and I was seduced by La Perfecta’s hard driving trombone sound (dubbed “trombanga”) during my teens.

Palmieri’s music dominates the East Coast airwaves, but he is no stranger to the West Coast or the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. During the 60s he teamed up with the Swedish vibraphonist, Cal Tjader and recorded two trailblazing albums that have stood the test of time – El Sonido Nuevo/The New Sound (1966) and Bamboleate (1967).

And, though much of the audience at San Jose was either too young or oblivious to the historical nature of the music, Palmieri paid tribute to Tjader by opening the set with two tracks from the above-mentioned recordings, the fiery Picadillo and the haunting Samba de Los Sueños.

Palmieri took things up a notch with Crew (a tune he composed for his daughter), the jazziest tune of the bunch and destroyed the audience with an extended version of the Cuban comparsa, Camagueyanos y Habaneros, which evolved into a jam session of epic proportions and included surprise guests, percussionist Luisito Quintero and trombonist Doug Beavers.

At an age where some artists of his stature would be content to rest on their laurels, or even call it a day, Palmieri was as spirited and enthusiastic as ever. As I observed him going through his paces, surrounded by a cadre of young, gifted musicians, I got the distinct impression that there was nowhere else he would rather be.

Palmieri’s music moves beyond the stereotypical parameters of Latin Jazz and Salsa. It’s a musical bridge between his Puerto Rican heritage, Cuba and his be-bop influenced piano and no matter the mode, his music never fails to excite and get a crowd on its feet.

Palmieri recently released two new tracks: Vámonos Pa’l Monte, one of Palmieri’s most popular compositions, recorded in 1971 with his brother Charlie Palmieri, and this time rendered with a big band arrangement and Pa’ La Ocha Tambó, an underground hit and a staple in many Palmieri Live performances, was first recorded live in 1971 at the Sing Sing Penitentiary and was never recorded in a studio until now.

Eddie Palmieri’s Latin Jazz Band is Palmieri on piano, bassist Luques Curtis, trumpeter Jonathan Powell, saxophonist Louis Fouche, percussionists Camilo Molina, Little Johnny Rivero and Anthony Carrillo.

Yale Cultural historian, Robert Farris Thompson sums up the importance of Eddie Palmieri. “We’re talking about one of the great figures in American vernacular music, a multifaceted world-class musician who blends and zigzags between cultures, between the modern and the ancient, going past all boundaries.”

Photos: Tomas Peña (click on thumbnails to enlarge)

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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Festivals Report

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 24 to July 3, 2022

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TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2022

10 Days of Free Shows — Say What!

My TD Toronto Jazz Festival started mid festival, Tuesday, June 28th, early evening. It was all about Juno winners and nominees. The first act, Sammy Jackson and her quartet performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Sammy Jackson won a Juno for vocal jazz album of the year. Her band, made up of Jackson on Vocals, Thomas Fleming – guitar, Chris Pruden – keys, Mark Godfrey – bass and Ian Wright playing the drums. Jackson sang songs from her award winning 5-track EP With You, featuring original compositions. Sammy Jackson added some songs from her 2016 release, the 5-track EP Take Me Back, to make for an enjoyable hour long performance. Jackson’s songs are about joy, vulnerability, long distance relationships, and love. Jackson blends jazz, R&B, soul and pop with her beautiful voice.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Jackson covers an impressive vocal range, and her phrasing is delightful. Jackson shines on the ballads. I especially enjoyed “Bad Reception” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Sammy Jackson concluded her show with one dedicated to her son, entitled “Chuckie”, a toddler who happened to be in the audience and made a cameo at the front of the stage. This tune was upbeat and had a happy go lucky, dance groove to get everybody moving.

I spoke with Jackson after the show, I asked her if she noticed the Juno enhancing her career? She said, “I think it’s why I’m here. The Juno increased my exposure. So that’s great. Thank you Juno!”

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Kellylee Evans performed the evening of the 28th and I was not going to miss her concert at the TD Main Stage. Kellylee Evans was in great vocal form and in accompaniment with a wonderful band made up of Joel Visentin – keyboards, Mark Godfrey – bass, Rich Grossman – guitar, and Ian Wright on drums.

Evans has suffered some serious physical setbacks in her recovery from a tragic accident in 2013. She has an injury that is effecting her ability to walk and even to stand. She performed the show from a sitting position.

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Evans puts her heart and soul into her singing. She is a Juno winner for vocal jazz album of the year for Nina, released in 2010. One of my favourite vocal jazz albums.

This evening, Evans performed songs from her new 5-song EP Green Light as well as many others. A beautiful, dynamic, high energy performance—even from her seated position.

Alexis Baró Quintet - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Alexis Baró Quintet – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I started off Wednesday, the 29th with the amazing trumpet playing of Alexis Baró. The Alexis Baró Quintet was performing at the TD Stage at Festival Village in Yorkville.

I really enjoy Baró’s trumpet playing. I think he is one of the most expressive players in the Afro Cuban style. Baró performed songs from his new album Ma Raiz.

Larnell Lewis Band - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I only stuck around for a few of the songs as Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis were performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove, a few streets south. It is most unfortunate to have these scheduling conflicts. However, It is amazing to have so much talent at one festival.

Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis performed on the TD Main Stage Wednesday the 29th – a dynamite performance. The band, made up of Larnell Lewis – drums, Joy Lapps – steelpan, Jeremy Ledbetter – piano, Elmer Ferrer – guitar, Rob Christian – woodwinds, Andrew McAnsh – trumpet and Marc Manhertz – bass.

Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

“Rejoice” was the title of one of the songs performed and to hear this band is to rejoice. When I listen to Larnell Lewis play I feel the pulse through my soul. I think this is the most heartful drummer I have ever heard. His music is uplifting, powerful, dynamic, his beats, fills and rhythms, just outstanding. He shares his heart with the audience, nothing is left on the stage. 

Now to get ready for a return to Koerner Hall, after 2 years of isolation, for one of the few ticketed events, the Gregory Porter band. Excited? Yes, indeed!

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