Eddie Palmieri - piano, composer; Barry Rogers - trombone; Jose Luis Rodriguez - trombone; Mario Rivera - tenor sax, flute; Ronnie Cuber - baritone sax; Victor "Vitin" Paz - trumpet; Alfredo De La Fe - violin; Nicky Marrero - timbales; Tommy "Chukie" Lopez - bongos; Jerry Gonzalez - congas; Eladio Perez - congas; Eddie "Gua-Gua" Riviera - bass; Ismael Quintana - lead vocals; Jimmy Sabater - background vocals; Willie Torres - background vocals
Charismatic salsa pioneer Eddie Palmieri once famously called himself "a frustrated conga player who takes it out on the piano." You can hear that driving percussive quality on the keyboard throughout this Carnegie Hall show as Palmieri leads his orchestra through a scintillating set of uncut salsa. At the time of his appearance at the 1974 Newport Jazz Festival, Palmieri was riding high on the strength of his Grammy-winning album from 1973, The Sun of Latin Music. But rather than kick off the concert with something from that current album, Palmieri reaches back to 1972's Live at Sing Sing for a stirring rendition of his "Adoracion." Beginning with an extended modal piano intro, the full band finally enters at the two-minute mark with an explosive rhythmic flurry. The ensuing salsa jam is highlighted by a daring high-note solo from the legendary Panamanian-born trumpeter Vitin Paz and a blistering baritone saxophone solo from Ronnie Cuber, a former member of the George Benson Quartet.
Next up is a rendition of "Pa La Ocha Tombo" (also from Live at Sing Sing), which prominently features Ismael Quintana's dramatic vocals, Paz's soaring trumpet and Cuber's wailing baritone. Midway through, Tommy "Chukie" Lopez is spotlighted on bongos as the crowd claps along to his churning solo. Violinist Alfredo De La Fe and congeuro Eladio Perez also contribute potent solos on top of Palmieri's mesmerizing son montuno groove. Paz returns to take the tune out with more stratospheric trumpet blasts. Palmieri and his crew conclude their Sunday evening set on a burning note with Cuber turned loose for a scorching bebop-meets-salsa baritone sax solo.
Born in New York City on December 15, 1936, Eddie and his older brother Charlie began playing Puerto Rican folkloric music in their South Bronx neighborhood as young boys. After taking piano lessons at age 11, Eddie began absorbing the influence of such great jazz pianists as McCoy Tyner and Thelonious Monk. Inspired by brother Charlie, who was already a working musician, he formed his own band in 1950 at age 14 and later joined Tito Rodriguez's band, performing frequently at The Palladium, the focal point of Latin jazz in New York City during the '50s. In 1961, he formed the band Conjunto La Perfecta, which included a rare two-trombone frontline and featured singer Ismael Quintana. Their 1962 album, La Perfecta, is still regarded as a salsa classic. (His 2002 album, La Perfecta II, revisits material from that groundbreaking album 40 years later).
Palmieri has won a total of nine Grammy Awards in his career, most recently for 2005's Listen Here and 2006's Simpático, the latter a joint project with trumpeter and longtime collaborator Brian Lynch. (Bill Milkowski)