Father of Latin Jazz Celebrates Third 25th

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 11:28

An Interview with Eddie Palmieri

by: Casey Pukl

Talking to Eddie Palmieri feels identical to listening to his music. This jovial and enthusiastic father of Latin Jazz is celebrating his 75th birthday with a bang this year (but if you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s started counting backwards). Fresh off the release of his first ever DVD show, this nine time Grammy Award winner shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Take a read, and see what he’ll be bringing to Anthology for the first time ever this weekend!

CP: I have to start off by wishing you a very happy birthday! I know this is a big year for you!

EP: Yes! I turned 25 again! (Laughs) I heard you’re supposed to start counting backwards.

CP: (Laughs) 25 is certainly a great age to be! Tell me a little bit about the anniversary DVD you just released!

EP: It came out so excellent. So far we’ve seen some really great returns on it so far. People have given us wonderful responses. It’s actually my first DVD I’ve ever made. I always said I wanted to do one, and this was the time.

CP: I can’t believe this is the first one!

EP: I know! But it was so fun. The DVD is very exciting. We had the big orchestra, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, and the vocalist is so potent. It’s very exciting to watch.

CP: You certainly know how to put together a great ensemble! Tell me about the quartet you’re bringing to Anthology this weekend.

EP: This is an incredible quartet. You’d think it was put together by the United Nations! Brian Lynch (trumpet) is Irish, Boris Kozlov (bass) is from Russia, Dafnis Prieto (drums) is from Cuba, and who knows where I come from (laughs)! But it’s going to be wonderful to play this ensemble at Anthology. You guys have such an incredible sound system. Last time I was so impressed.

CP: What are you guys going to be playing this weekend?

EP: Well, with a quartet, there’s some stuff that you just can’t play. I play with ensembles of different sizes and instrumentation all over the world, so it won’t be all of my music. But we have Brian Lynch, so we’ll be playing some of our collaborations. And then there’s actually three new compositions that I just recorded that I’ll be playing. I just did work on a movie. This is the first time I’ll be playing these— and you’re the only person who knows that, my dear!

CP: That’s very exciting! How long have you and Brian worked together?

EP: Brian has been with me for over two decades now! He’s worked in orchestras with me for 25 years. And then of course, we did the record together and won the Latin Grammy!. Brian is a fabulous musician. He’s also now a professor at the University of Miami.

CP: What are your feelings on the current situation with the Grammy Awards cutting out the Latin Jazz category?

EP: It’s terrible; absolutely terrible. But it’s over with now. It’s a very sad thing the way they did that. They’ve harmed the category, not only Latin jazz,  but now just straight-ahead!

CP: It’s such a shame to see them eliminate the category. It was really your baby. You were really the instrumental person in establishing it.

EP: Yeah, but the thing is that jazz musicians already had their own category, and they used to throw us in with the jazz musicians. While that was an honor, to win a Grammy and be nominated, well that wasn’t going to happen. There’s too many players to go through— Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, etc etc. There are so many amazing jazz pianists in that category, that you’re honored that you’re honored, but to win is such a long shot. So we needed our own category. Eventually, the jazz musicians started invading our category! Latin jazz is truly one of the most exciting musical presentations on the planet because of the rhythmical patterns— if it’s done correctly.

CP: Absolutely. There’s nothing that feels better than a solid montuno. So what’s next on your agenda?

EP: Well, after that, I’m on my way to Australia, mate!

CP: Excellent! What’s happening there for you?

EP: We’re going to barbie… wait… shrimp on the barbie? Is that what they call it?

CP: (Laughs) Brilliant.

EP: I learned that from Crocodile Dundee! (Laughs) But we’re going out there to play Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. I’ve been there before, so it should be very exciting! They love Latin jazz down there, and we’re going down with a sextet or a septet— something like that. It’s very nice when they appreciate your music on the international bandstand. Plus, I can’t get any further down than Australia unless I want to go to Antarctica.

CP: And who wants to go down there? There’s no shrimp on the Barbie!

EP: Well, if you go down there it just means you’re real cool, if you know what I mean.

CP: (Laughs) Absolutely.

EP: In Australia, they just say, ‘No worries, mate! Throw some shrimp on the Barbie!’ Yes, that’s what it is.

CP: Sounds like you’re all set to go!

EP: Yes, and then I’ll also be going over to Europe with a big band. This one will have 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, the full rhythm section, and the vocalist. There’s a lot of different tours with all the different orchestras which makes it exciting too.

CP: Sounds like you have no plans of slowing down anytime soon, huh?

EP: To do what? Play golf? I’m too great of a golfer; no one can compete with me.  That would just be unfair to all the golfers, including that Tiger Woods!  I might as well stay put at the piano and give everybody else a break.

CP: Especially now that you’re 25 again, right?

EP: Ah, see! You’re coming around! But the most important thing is the tours and being able to do both genres. There’s the Latin dance music with the vocalists and then there’s the Latin jazz.

CP: It sounds like you’re in for quite a great year, my friend!

EP: Absolutely. We’re just so blessed to have employment in a time where there are a lot of problems economically all over the world. It makes it harder to get tours for the bands, especially for the younger players who can’t get started. I was lucky to have an opportunity many many years ago. I was able to get a tour. Now it’s just very difficult if you don’t have that name value that will put people in the seats. I just feel so fortunate to be able to travel and tour all of the international bandstands.

But this week, we’re coming to the national bandstand at Anthology! Oh boy, you never know who you might meet at the museum!

CP: What are you most looking forward to about coming back?

EP: I was really so impressed with that sound system. I never saw anything like it. You see, here’s the problem.  Jazz rooms in general, have the highest degree and lack of respect to the artist. The artist is the one who brings people in. And to not have the top of the shelf sound system is beyond comprehension to me.  I find the lack of sonic respect when I go around and play. When I came to Anthology, I was so impressed with the sound system being made a priority. It’s one room where the artist can sound at the maximum of his presentation. I’ve never forgotten that.

I always congratulate Anthology all over the world. I always say that there’s a club in San Diego that  has truly taken care of business. I congratulate Anthology always.

CP: Well that’s always great to hear! I’m looking forward to your show. I’ve actually never seen you live!

EP: Oh, well get ready! When you see us, you’re going to start clapping and screaming, but don’t be dancing in the corners! They’ll probably throw you out (laughs)!

CP: I’ve done my fair share of dancing in here. I’m pretty sure we’re safe.

Come down and dance, scream, and clap with Mr. Palmieri and I this weekend!

Eddie Palmieri & Brian Lynch on Spotify

WHAT: The Eddie Palmieri – Brian Lynch Jazz Quartet
WHEN: Friday & Saturday, February 10 & 11, 2012, 7:30pm on the 10th, 7:30 & 9:30pm on the 11th
TICKETS: $10-$44 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile