By Don Macica
Eddie Palmieri is certainly no stranger to Chicago. Fortunately, El Maestro has lately brought a different game on every visit. He opened 2013’s World Music Festival at Millennium Park with his salsa orchestra and brought the house down with driving dance grooves wedded to sophisticated big band arrangements, giving both the jazz heads and salseros a night to remember (Read Agúzate’s review and view photos here). The year before that, he presented a pair of sold out Sound Culture Chicago shows at Mayne Stage that emphasized open ended jazz improvisation over tight charts and featured trumpeter Brian Lynch in a scaled down version of their multiple Grammy-winning Simpático album.
His Symphony Center appearance is his first in Chicago since being named a NEA Jazz Master and will feature the Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band, a tight septet consisting of congas, bongos, timbales and bass plus alto sax and trumpet. From the beginning, Palmieri’s playing has fused the rhythm of his Puerto Rican heritage and Cuban piano masters with the harmonic complexity of jazz influences like Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. If recent shows (including this one from NPR’s JazzSet) are any indication, it will be a real treat to hear this focus on the maestro, even as we are equally likely to hear virtuosic playing from the rest of the band.
Opening the show is a quintet led by bassist Carlos Henriquez. Although only in his mid-30s, Henriquez has been a member of Wynton Marsalis’ Quintet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for over a decade. He has played with artists as diverse as George Benson, Celia Cruz, Danilo Pérez, Carlos Santana, Steve Turre and Palmieri himself. Though he is yet to release a recording under his own name, he’s appeared on over 60 straight ahead, Latin jazz and salsa albums over the last 20 years, so it will be interesting to hear this diverse background channeled into his approach as a leader.
If I were you, I would not arrive late to this one!
Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet, Friday January 16, 8pm at Symphony Center. Tickets at cso.org.
About the author: Don Macica is a marketing consultant to the performing arts community and a contributing writer to several online publications. When not traveling, he lives a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He is the author of Border Radio, a blog about music, migration and cultural exchange.