All Music Guide Biography by Richard S. Ginell
Eddie Palmieri is one of the foremost Latin jazz pianists of the last half of the 20th century, blessed with a technique that fuses such ubiquitous jazz influences as the styles of Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, and McCoy Tyner into a Latin context. No purist, he has also shown a welcome willingness to experiment with fusions of Latin and non-Latin music. However, despite a number of stints with major labels and numerous industry awards and nominations, he has yet to break into the American record scene in a big way.
Like his older brother Charlie, Eddie started playing at an early age (eight) and studied classical piano while also playing drums. He made his professional debut with Johnny Sequi's orchestra in 1955 and eventually joined Tito Rodriguez's popular band in 1958-1960. In 1961, Palmieri formed his highly influential band la Perfecta, whose flute and twin- or triple-trombone front line made American jazz musicians like Herbie Mann take notice; he also scored heavily in an excellent 1966 collaboration with Cal Tjader, El Sonido Nuevo (Verve). After la Perfecta split up in 1968 due to financial problems, Palmieri played with the Tico and Fania All-Stars, recorded with Alfredo "Chocolat" Armenteros, Cachao, and Justo Betancourt, and, like his brother, cut some Latin boogaloo sessions. Around the mid-'60s, Palmieri began formal studies of arranging, and the Monk influence became more pronounced in his piano work. While recording for the Latin Coco label in the mid-'70s, Palmieri started to mix salsa with R&B, pop, rock, Spanish vocals, and jazz improvisation. Brief affiliations with Columbia in the late '70s and Capitol (in league with David Sanborn) in the late '80s failed to produce an American breakthrough hit, though the latter attempt was aimed squarely at the burgeoning "jazz-lite" market. While much of his output as a leader remains out of print in American catalogs, several of his older albums are available on CD; Palmieri has also remained active in the 1990s, recording the jazz-oriented Palmas (1993) for the normally classical Nonesuch label, as well as a series of albums for the RMM label. He returned to his La Perfecta days in April 2002 with La Perfecta II on the Concord Jazz label. Two more albums for Concord followed, Rimo Caliente in 2003 and Listen Here in 2005.