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Eddie Palmieri at the 92nd Street Y Festival

Day 1 of the 92nd Street Y’s Latin on Lex Jazz Festival featured nine-time Grammy Award winner, NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri and his Afro…



Eddie Palmieri

The 92nd Street Y Presents Latin on Lex Jazz Festival – Featuring Eddie Palmieri & the Afro-Caribbean Octet (3/12/15)

“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.”
— Professor Robert Farris Thompson

Day 1 of the 92nd Street Y’s Latin on Lex Jazz Festival featured nine-time Grammy Award winner, NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri and his Afro-Caribbean Octet.

Just prior to the show, Artistic Director Brian Lynch talked about Palmieri’s long and storied career, his “secret” relationship with jazz and the evolution of the Octet, which brings together the Afro-Caribbean dance form and the instrumental jazz form without compromising either.

Before laying his hands on the keys, Palmieri gave the audience a brief dissertation on the evolution of Afro-Caribbean music (a broad term for musical styles originating in the Caribbean from the African diaspora) and proclaimed, “The drum is the pulse of my life!”

The repertoire was a cross section of tunes from the Octet’s songbook that are rarely played live. Tunes such as, Crew, Definitely In, Doña Tere, Caribbean Mood, Doctor Duck, Palmas, the majority from three classic recordings that marked a critical juncture in Palmieri’s music: “Palmas” (1994), “Arete” (1995) and “Vortex” (1996) aka “the trilogy”.

Highlights included Brian Lynch’s scorching trumpet solos, Donald Harrison’s soulful sax, Steve Davis’s lyrical trombone; Luques Curtis’s rock-steady bass and the hard-driving rhythms of timbalero Camilo Molina, conguero Little Johnny Rivero and bongocero Anthony Carrillo.

I’ve been listening to Palmieri’s music for years and had the pleasure of seeing him perform in every setting imaginable but this was a rare opportunity to see the artist who revolutionized Latin music perform rarely played material in a jazz format. Palmieri’s natural inclination is to play free. Moreover, he solos like a drummer but at the Y he stuck to the charts. His playing was structured and restrained with occasional bursts of modern jazz chords, swinging tumbaos and dissonance.

Brian Lynch sums the series up in the program notes: “It’s fitting that 92Y, one of New York City’s most iconic cultural institutions is presenting music that, while diverse in its sources, is truly “made in New York.”

Kudos to the 92nd Street Y and Artistic Director Brian Lynch for the forward thinking series. I hope to see it evolve into a yearly event.


Eddie Palmieri:
Brian Lynch:
Donald Harrison:
Steve Davis:
Luques Curtis:
Camilo Molina:
Little Johnny Rivero:

Photos by Andrew James

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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