Legendary Latin-jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri returns to town tonight, closing out the current “Jazz at the Lobero” series with intelligence and an infectious groove.
When: 8 p.m., tonight
Where: Lobero Theater, 33 E. Canon Perdido
Tickets are $39 to $105
Information: 963-0761, www.lobero.com
When it comes to the short list of living let jazz pioneers and titans the name Eddie Palmieri ranks near the top of the list. The pianist/big band leader/entertainer and cultural bon vivant, now 82, is still going strong, and is headed back for one of his periodic stops in Santa Barbara, tonight at the Lobero Theatre.
Mr. Palmieri and band will bring a fiery, intelligent groove to the historic venue, closing out a strong “Jazz at the Lobero” series, which has included Bill Frisell and Tierney Sutton offering variations on film music and Delfeayo Marsalis bringing on the New Orleans and old school jazz heat.
Geo-culturally, Mr. Palmieri’s own roots systems belonging squarely in his parents’ native land of Puerto Rico, the power of the mambo, the jazz-fueled streets of New York City, and in the great tradition of merging jazz with Latin music styles. Over the past 50 years, Mr. Palmieri’s GRAMMY-lined catalogue of recordings has included such highlights as the iconic genre-melding 1970 album “Harlem River Drive,” “The Sun of Latin Music” in 1975 and albums recorded in tandem with a fellow Latin-Jazz pioneer, Tito Puente.
Arguably, some of his finest recordings have come out just in the past few years, a testament to the continuing story of the Palmieri touch—combining accrued wisdom and his trademark musical energy and rhythmic verve.
News-Press: You have played in Santa Barbara a few times in the past, but this will be your first time back in several years. You’re a world traveler, of course, but do you have any particular feelings about Santa Barbara?
Eddie Palmieri: Visiting and performing once again in Santa Barbara is always special. I have many family members nearby and look forward to seeing them and enjoying the kind invitation by the Lobero Theater. The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Presentation will be enjoyed by all.
NP: Is touring and live playing still as vital a part of your musical life as ever? Is it on stage where the magic really happens, in your view?
EP: I have been blessed to be on the musical bandstand for over seven decades. Music is my life and I will continue to tour with these great musicians in my band. I’m getting stronger, musically, with experience.
NP: You’re not resting on any laurels with your recording work recently, and your latest albums are very strong. Are there guiding concepts or themes for these latest entries to your by-now vast discography, which goes back to 1963?
EP: In the last few years, I have released–in my opinion–the greatest CD that I have recorded: “Sabiduria,” “Full Circle” and “Mi Luz Mayor.” The younger generation should really explore and investigate these musical productions. They are a very important listening tool for the musical students.
NP: Although the blending of Latin music and jazz—a natural marriage—goes back to Chano Pozo and others, you played an important role in making the connection a strong and lasting union, so to speak—going back to 1970 and earlier. Did you always sense that this was a kind of mission for you, to strengthen that bond and make Latin-Jazz “safe” for the jazz and music world in general?
EP: Latin-Jazz was created in New York and I have been quite blessed throughout my career to explore jazz phrasings into all the different rhythmical patterns that I comprehend. Instrumental Mambo’s from the ‘40’s and 50’s is what I uphold today in my music.
NP: You started out on percussion, timbales? Did that give you a certain approach when you settled on piano?
EP: I always loved timbales. When I re-dedicated myself to the piano the percussive attack has always been a central part of my piano playing.
NP: You actually started out studying classical piano as a kid? What led you in other directions—was it partly your brother’s influence?
EP: My late brother, the great Charlie Palmieri, was my major influence. The family tradition when I was young, with uncles playing guitars and congas in the household, led me to be a musician. I have been blessed to being recognized throughout the world with my own musical signature.
NP: By now, Latin-Jazz and jazz with a strong Puerto Rican link is a solid part of the American musical culture. You’re still going strong, and we have musicians like Miguel Zenon promoting the Puerto Rican musical heritage in jazz and experimenting with new ways to combine the cultures. Is there a kind of satisfaction in seeing how that musical tradition has become embraced and is moving forward?EP: To this day, I am always striving to push the musical boundaries. Creativity will always be a Palmieri trademark. My spirit of investigation through music must always be limitless.