Review: Eddie Palmieri, La Perfecta

New CD from Malanga Music combines La Perfecta (Alegre 817) and El Molestoso (Alegre 824), the first two LPs from Eddie Palmieri and two key albums in the evolution of salsa

[La Perfecta] (1) Conmigo; Mi Isla Preciosa; Presente Y Pasado; Mi Guajira; Mi Pollo; Oigo Un Tumbao; Tema La Perfecta; Ritmo Caliente; El Gavilán; Te Quiero, Te Quiero; Cachita; Bailaré Tu Son; [El Molestoso] El Molestoso; Así Es La Humanidad; Lázaro Y Su Micrófono; Contento Estoy; Sabroso Guaguancó; Yo Sin Ti; Con Un Amor Se Borra Otro Amor; En Cadenas; La Gioconda; No Critiques (64.19)
(1) Eddie Palmieri y su conjunto La Perfecta: Palmieri (p, ldr); Ismael Quintana (v); George Castro (f); Barry Rogers, Joâo Donato (tb); Willie Matos, Joe DeMare, Harold Wegbreit, Dave Tucker, Al Dirisi (t); Joe Rivera (b); Mike Collazo, Chickie Perez, Charlie Palmieri, Manny Oquendo, George Maysonet (pc); Chivirico Davila, Willie Torres, Victor Velazquez (chorus). Mastertone Studios, NY, 1962. (2) same, 1963.
Malanga Music 826

This CD combines La Perfecta (Alegre 817) and El Molestoso (Alegre 824), the first two LPs from Eddie Palmieri and two key albums in the evolution of salsa.

Palmieri was born in the South Bronx in 1936 of parents who had migrated from Puerto Rico in 1926. He had piano lessons and paid close attention to the music of Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner – the latter may surely be heard in the quartal flavour of his too brief solo on Conmigo, which in its rhythmic angularity may also suggest Monk.

On forming La Perfecta in 1961 he sought, in common with many Hispanic musicians, to update traditional Latin styles, replacing the violins of the then popular charanga band with two trombones. According to historian César Miguel Rondón, this “Palmerian variation would be the one to determine all the later sounds of salsa”. The horns gave a flavour of jazz and more volume, the impact enhanced by an arranging style that set the two horns slightly out of tune and thus increased the sense of “fuerza” or strength. Rondón says, comparing jazz and the new Latin horn sound, “the music stopped being ostentatious to become wounded”.

The late Barry Rogers, one of Palmieri’s trombonists and credited with many of the band’s head arrangements, was remembered in the Brecker Brothers’ 1992 Song For Barry and mentioned in interview with Michael Brecker as an important figure for the brothers. It’s interesting to speculate on a causal connection between Palmieri’s 1962-3 salsa inventions and the tight horn lines and straight-eighth rhythms of the mature NY fusion sound of the 70s and 80s.

Meantime, enjoy this exquisite and detailed gumbo of Afro-Caribbean rhythm and European concert and jazz harmony alongside Joseph Parks’ highly informative sleeve note.

Mark Gilbert

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