Palmieri definitely has local alliances. The Harlem-born musician considers Thelonius Monk one of his biggest influences, and the immortal Monk called Weehawken home for more than three decades. Palmieri is also a colleague of Paquito D'Rivera, another all-time great in the field of Latin jazz. D'Rivera used to call Weehawken his home, and currently lives in North Bergen.
So it makes a little bit of sense that Palmieri will be performing Wednesday night in the second of the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center's "Summer Concerts on the Hudson."
The Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center, Inc. (HRPAC) is not a building, but a New Jersey nonprofit organization whose mission it is to create and build a regional performing arts center on the spectacular Hudson River waterfront in Weehawken, New Jersey.
The Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band will grace Weehawken's Lincoln Harbor Park with an outdoor free concert, beginning at 7 p.m.
Palmieri, currently touring in Germany, was ecstatic to learn that Weehawken was once the home of his favorite musicians. In fact, one music critic once dubbed Palmieri as "the Latin Thelonius Monk."
"I didn't know he was from Weehawken," Palmieri said in a telephone interview. "He definitely was one of my biggest influences. His approach in harmonic situations left such an impact on the world of jazz. I think I remember reading that he lived in Weehawken and now I'm coming to play there. I think Thelonius influenced everyone in the world of jazz, not just me. No one was like him. He set the standards. It's great to think I'll be in his backyard."
Palmieri will be performing for the HRPAC, which features D'Rivera on its board of directors. The two recently performed together at a benefit concert at the famed Birdland Ballroom in Manhattan as a tribute to long-time owner John Valenti.
"Paquito D'Rivera is such a great and unique talent," Palmieri said. "I like him a lot. I didn't know he was involved with this organization. It's quite exciting for me to be back home, so to speak. I think it's going to be a great concert and I'm looking forward to being there."
One musician's beginnings
Although Palmieri was born in New York seven decades ago - "Don't tell anyone, but I'm really 39," he jokes - his early tastes of music were entrenched in Latin jazz.
"My older brother, Charlie, was a major inspiration to me," Palmieri said. "He was nine years older and he introduced me to that music. I was in awe of him and just loved to watch him play. He was the one who got me into those styles of music."
When Palmieri was old enough, he got the chance to play the dance ballrooms like his brother. Palmieri was regularly featured at the famed Palladium Ballroom in the 1950s and '60s.
"I was fortunate to be accepted by many different music genres," Palmieri said. "But the majority of my work was in Latin jazz. That was the foundation. I got into other things more and more, but it was always Latin jazz first."
Palmieri moved on to become a bandleader, playing salsa and Latin jazz venues. Over the years, Palmieri created stylistic innovations over the years, mixing salsa with R&B, pop, rock, Spanish vocals and more jazz improvisation. He went on to record 32 albums and has been fortunate enough to receive a record nine Grammy awards.
The latest Grammy came as a surprise to Palmieri, who said he recorded "Simpatico" with Lynch as a favor. "I was actually just supposed to be a guest musician with Brian, but then he put it down that I was collaborating with him," Palmieri said. "Next thing I know, we're nominated for a Grammy, and boom, we won it. It's been an exciting year."
Lynch has been touring with Palmieri in Europe. The CD has been a best-seller worldwide.
"I never expected that," Palmieri said.
After touring Europe, Palmieri said that he's happy to come back to familiar territory.
"It's quite exciting, coming to play for an audience that appreciates all kinds of music," Palmieri said. "It's a wonderful musical event and I know that back home, people come to concerts with such an open mind. I just hope to blow everyone away and be well accepted."
Palmieri said that he received great advice years ago from another legendary performer, the late Tito Puente, who, in the 1980s, also performed in Weehawken at a place called Shanghai Red's, located at the current site of the Chart House Restaurant.
"Tito Puente told me that he was always meeting his crowds and they would first say that their brothers and sisters listened to his music," Palmieri said. "Then it was mothers and fathers. Finally, it was grandmothers and grandfathers. As years go by, you really do acquire new audiences and I'm happy to perform for younger, happy audiences."
HPRAC executive director Bruce Sherman was overjoyed to secure a legend like Palmieri to perform on the HRPAC's Summer Concerts on the Hudson schedule.
"It's a great honor and a thrill to have Eddie Palmieri playing here," Sherman said. "His career is a long and very distinguished one, marked by a musical inquisitiveness which has resulted in a lot of great and diverse music. I hope that this 'Sun of Latin Music' will bring lots of warm rays to our waterfront for his concert Wednesday night."
If there is inclement weather, a rain date is scheduled for the next night at the same time and place. The public is encouraged to check the info hotline at (201) 716-4540 on the day of the performance if there is a threat of bad weather. The hotline is updated throughout the day.
So what's the secret that keeps Eddie Palmieri playing the piano with the same fervor and energy that he did 50 years ago?
"It comes from eating," Palmieri said. "I eat nothing but water cress and parsley. I don't eat heavy meat. I tell people that I graze a lot. I might press a little garlic on it, but it's mostly grass."
Whatever he's doing seems to work, because the vibrant sounds keep coming - as do the Grammy Awards - after all this time.
"It's a wonderful feeling," Palmieri said. "I love seeing people and they're happy watching you perform. There's nothing more rewarding."
For more information about the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center, log on to www.hrpac.org.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com