The Mayan
1038 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, California 90015
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Pianist Eddie Palmieri is a true Latin-music visionary. His complex rhythmic compositions and daring improvisation put him at the forefront of musical icons who challenged conventional limitations. Though steeped in the Afro-Cuban tradition, Palmieri has always pushed the boundaries and in the process reinvented the sound of the Latin dance band. Listen to the Wax Poetics Playlist here

Born in Spanish Harlem in 1936, nine-time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri is undeniably the preeminent worldwide ambassador for Latin American music. There’s no one else even close. Palmieri is frequently compared to Art Blakey as a father figure band leader and McCoy Tyner for his percussive piano style, but when it comes to contributions to an art form, he’s more on par with Miles Davis and James Brown. Like Miles reinvented jazz and Brown rhythm and blues, Eddie turned Latin American music inside out. His vast repertoire of rhythms and compositional structures—that always provide an unrestrained launching pad for improvisation—stretch the limits of what can be played and remain true to the clave.

En route to ambassador status, Palmieri journeyed through several phases, from young upstart to counterculture revolutionary. His lust for life sometimes put him on the edge, even jeopardized his career, but in the end seems to have served him well. This is no aging pitcher who lost his fastball and learned to squeeze by with a change-up.

Today, many of Eddie’s gigs are in a Latin jazz format, but he still refers to himself as the leader of a dance band—that is, a dance band playing Latin music, the wide-ranging Afro-Cuban genres commonly grouped together as salsa. Whatever the genre, he doesn’t know the meaning of automatic pilot. Smartly assembling ambitious phenoms with savvy veterans, Palmieri’s bands bleed chops. The scorecard of musicians who have passed through his groups include just about every notable instrumentalist in Latin music, from icons like Cachao and Manny Oquendo to up-and-comers like bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Dafnis Prieto.

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