Thursday, January 24, 2013
The power to make you move
Latin jazz and salsa pianist Eddie Palmieri, who's coming to Jefferson Center on Friday, has a mathematical theory about why his music can excite a crowd.
Courtesy Jefferson Center
Eddie Palmieri impressed New York Times reviewer Nate Chinen during a recent retrospective concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. "Mr. Palmieri's tough, percussive pianism was essential at every turn, his solos serving a larger purpose," Chinen wrote.
Latin jazz and salsa pianist Eddie Palmieri, at 76, still can get a crowd going with his Afro-Cuban music and grooves. His music still has the power to move behinds.
Palmieri, who headlines Jefferson Center on Friday, believes that his genre will always have that power. And he even knows why. During his decades of study and performance, he dug into the Schillinger System of Musical Composition, which breaks down the music via mathematics. Palmieri emerged with what might be the hippest possible explanation of his music' P power.< s>
"In those arrangements, there's tension and resistance," Palmieri said in a recent phone interview. "And the tension and resistance is going to lead you to an exciting musical climax.
"If sex and danger are the exciters, the reaction of the human being to that is love and fear. That must be in the arrangement. That way you generate that centrifugal force.
"When a piano player gives a solo to a bongo player, to the timbales, to the conga, we're generating more and more energy, so that when the full tutti of the brass comes, if you don't get excited â? you'd better check yourself into a hospital or something. You're not well.
"And that's why that music is just so unique, so wonderful. I've dedicated my whole life to it."
And after more than a half-century at it, he continues to reap the dividends.
Palmieri was among four jazz music figures selected this year for a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters fellowship. He received a $25,000 award and became part of a tradition that includes past masters such as Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Herbie Hancock and Ella Fitzgerald.
In 2009, the Library of Congress selected his 1965 composition, "Azucar Pa Ti," for its National Recording Registry. Other writers selected that year included Tupac Shakur ("Dear Mama"), Loretta Lynn ("Coal Miner's Daughter"), Little Richard ("Tutti Frutti"), Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnette ("Smokestack Lightnin'") and Patti Smith ("Horses").
Even as such honors of a lifetime come to him, he continues to play and lead his band with gusto. In December, he led both his small band and orchestra during a three-hour retrospective concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. New York Times reviewer Nate Chinen was impressed with the bands, their music and their leader.
"Mr. Palmieri's tough, percussive pianism was essential at every turn, his solos serving a larger purpose," Chinen wrote. "On 'Palo Pa' Rumba' he created a cycle of pauses and outbursts, the balance between them gradually favoring the former, so that the heart of the solo seemed to rest in silence. (Against such purposeful clamor this was a considerable feat.)"
Palmieri went for a joke when a reporter read him that passage.
"Did I really do that?" he said, before launching into another in-depth explanation of how his music works.
For the crowd at Jefferson Center on Friday, the "how" probably won't much matter. That fact that it does will probably be enough.
Eddie Palmieri Latin Band
>> What: 10th Annual Latin Dance Party, with Bio Ritmo
>> When: Concert, 8 p.m. Friday; dance party, 10 p.m.
>> How much: Concert, $19 to $45; dance, $12
>> Where: Jefferson Center, Roanoke
>> Contact: 345-2550, jeffcenter.org, eddiepalmierimusic.com, bioritmo.com
>> PODCAST: http://blogs.roanoke.com/cutnscratch/?p=14586