NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri is celebrating his 80th birthday this year with a gorgeous album Sabiduría, and a tour of select cities that brings him to the beautiful Olympia Theater in downtown Miami. Tix are available through the theater box office: olympiatheater.org
, $37, $47 and $57 + fees.
Born in Spanish Harlem to Puerto Rican parents and raised in the Bronx, Eddie Palmieri learned to play the piano at an early age, and at 13, he joined his uncle’s orchestra, playing timbales. He joined popular New York bands during the 1950s before forming his own band La Perfecta in 1960.
Palmieri's landmark 1970 release Harlem River Drive was a first to merge what were categorized as “Black” and “Latin” music into a free-form fusion of salsa, funk, soul and jazz. In 1975, he won the first-ever Grammy for Best Latin Recording for The Sun of Latin Music (he’s won ten Grammys altogether to date, including two with Tito Puente).
In addition to the Grammys, Palmieri has received numerous honors: Eubie Blake Award (1991); BBC (2002); Yale University’s Chubb Fellowship, usually reserved for international heads of state, but given to Palmieri in recognition of his work building communities through music (2002); Harlem Renaissance Award (2005); and more. In 2009, the Library of Congress added Palmieri’s composition Azucar Pa’ Ti to the National Recording Registry, which at the time only included 300 compositions documenting the history of all of recorded music history in the U.S.
In 2013, Eddie Palmieri was awarded the coveted Jazz Master award — the highest honor for a jazz artist — by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). That year he was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. Welcome back to Miami, maestro!