Eddie Palmieri was born December 15, 1936, his parents migrated to New York City from Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1926, and settled down in the South Bronx. When he was only 8 years old, he would musically accompany brother Charlie and together they entered and participated in many talent contests. Mr. Palmieri was educated in the city’s public school system where he was constantly exposed to music, specifically jazz. He took piano lessons and performed at Carnegie Hall when he was just 11 years old with his main influences being Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. He became a bandleader in 1950, when he was just 14, Palmieri played in various bands, including Tito Rodriquez Orchestra.
Conjunto La Perfecta
In 1961, Palmieri formed Conjunto La Perfecta (1962-1968), featuring legendary singer Ismael Quintana. Apart from the big bands, at the beginning of the decade the Charanga was the Latin dance craze. Essential the Charanga style is the Cuban (originally French) five key wooden flute and at least two violins. But Palmieri decided to replace the violins with 2 trombones for a heavier sound.
Two key elements to the ‘Palmieri’ sound were trombonists Barry Rogers (influential to the fourth chords sound that Eddie is known for) and Brazilian-born Jose Rodriguez. Round out the group and their riveting sound, the rest of the band consisted of: George Castro (flute), Manny Oquendo (bongo/timbales), Tommy Lopez (conga) and Andy Gonzalez/Dave Perez (bass). In the quest for a bigger and punchier sound, the band merged trombones and flutes where trumpets and strings had traditionally been played. This was an innovative contribution which was later termed “trombanga” by Charlie Palmieri, a successful musician in his own right.
“My goal was to become a dance orchestra leader, like the great bands of Machito, Tito Rodriquez and Tito Puente.”
~ Eddie Palmieri
In 1963, La Perfecta band member Manny Oquindo, heard a Mozambique being broadcast from Havana, Cuba. Manny lived in Long Island and could frequently get broadcast from Cuba at nights. He brought the rhythm to Tommy Lopez which then brought it to Eddie Palmieri and then musical arrangement and tunes were put to it. Keep in mind that this Mozambique is not the Afro-Cuban Mozambique that was innovated by Pello el Afrokan in 1958/59, it is a Comparsa. Regardless of this fact, the band and Mr. Palmieri were perceived to be in solidarity with Castro’s Cuba and a communist sympathizer. Tunes like “Mi Mambo Conga”, “Melao Para El Sapo”, “Campesino(El Pregon De La Montana)”, “Bamboleate” to name a few, were all Mozambiques.
Because of this musical direction La Perfecta’s shows were boycotted and were picketed by Cubans who lived in the States, which eventually brought an end to the Mozambique composition and performance era for Eddie Palmieri y La Perfecta.
Eventually the band was disbanded in 1968. To this day, the group is known as one of the swingingest, danceable, innovative and influential groups of that period.
“Melao Para El Sapo” featuring the Mozambique
Eddie Palmieri (piano)
Ismael Quintana (vocals)
George Castro (flute)
Jose Rodrigues, trombone)
Barry Rogers (trombone)
David Perez (bass guitar)
Tommy Lopez (conga drum)
Manny Oquendo (bongos, timbales)
Eddie Palmieri, known for his charismatic power and bold innovative drive, has a musical career that spans over 50 years as a bandleader of Salsa and Latin Jazz orchestras. With a discography that includes 36 titles, Mr. Palmieri has been awarded nine Grammy Awards. In a solute and celebration of 50 years of music, Eddie Palmeiri has released an exciting DVD concert:
Celebration of 50 Years of Music
“All too few musicians are declared national treasures in their lifetimes. . . Eddie Palmieri. . .can lay legitimate claim to being a musical monument.”
~Derk Richardson, San Francisco Bay Guardian