Sonido Solar: Eddie Palmieri Presents

Latin-piano legend Eddie Palmieri guests on a high-voltage Latin jazz set from New Jersey that barely pauses for breath


The Afro-Cuban jazz nonet Sonido Solar play contemporary arrangements of Latin jazz standards plus an original composition. Their special guest is legendary pianist, composer and bandleader Eddie Palmieri, now 85, who performs on two of the tracks.

Born in New York of Puerto Rican heritage, Palmieri played piano in the 50s with the orchestras of Vicentico Valdés and Tito Rodríguez. In 1961 he created his own orchestra, La Perfecta. As a rule he is associated with big Latin jazz and salsa bands but here it’s a small ensemble led by trumpeter Jonathan Powell, altoist Louis Fouché, bassist Luques Curtis and his pianist brother Zaccai Curtis. The four co-leaders share the honours for seven of the arrangements while the two Palmieri tracks are by the legend himself, one of them with Fouché.

When Almendra was recorded by Abelardo Valdés for his 1960 album Orquesta Almendra, it was delivered in a charanga style, without brass and featuring violin and flute. Now, we have an agile trumpet lead from Powell, ensemble horns and toe-tapping percussion in the album’s opener.

Next is Chucho Valdés’ hard-swinging Mambo Influenciado with intricate bongo, conga and timbales. The classic Mambo Inn, once recorded by Count Basie, has rousing solos from all the horns. Maria Cervantes, composed by Noro Morales, was frequently performed by Palmieri’s older, pianist brother, Charlie. Zaccai Curtis features strongly on this re-arrangement.

Clare Fischer’s, Morning, a cha-cha first recorded on his 1965 album Manteca! was made popular by Cal Tjader and Sergio Mendes. The arrangement here is by bassist Luques Curtis and has a dancing conga backdrop with expressive solos from piano, tenor and trombone.

Obsesión develops progressively over a throbbing rumba rhythm into spirited statements from trumpet, alto and trombone. Palmieri’s arrangement of Tito Puente’s Picadillo comes next, with Palmieri on piano, a pulsating rhythm and vigorous soloing from trumpet and alto. A second Puente composition, Ran Kan Kan, follows, with staccato horns and unabated percussion.

The closing number, Suite 176, is an original with both Palmieri and Fouché on piano. It was spontaneously improvised by them during the recording session and its title stems from multiplying the piano’s 88 keys by two.

The musicians on this album are top class. It’s relentless, high-voltage Latin jazz with barely time to draw breath – you may need some aural stamina to last the course in one sitting.

Almendra; Mambo Influenciado; Mambo Inn; Maria Cervantes; Morning; Obsesión; Picadillo; Ran Kan Kan; Suite 176 (58.07)
Jonathan Powell (t); Louis Fouché (as); Jeremy Powell (ts); Joe Fiedler (tb); Zaccai Curtis (p); Luques Curtis (b); Camilo Molina (tim, d); Reinaldo de Jesús (cga); Marcos Lopez (bgo, cowbells). New Jersey, 2022.
Truth Revolution Recording Collective TRRC063