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08/15/99

A discographic profile of the pianist, bandleader, arranger, composer, A&R man, producer; and fine soloist with emphasis on the melodic in improvisation.


Profile: Charlie Palmieri by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com)

PALMIERI Charlie (b Carlos Manuel Palmieri Jr., 21 Nov. '27, NYC; d 12 Sept. '88, NYC) Pianist, bandleader, arranger, composer, A&R man, producer; a fine soloist with emphasis on the melodic in improvisation. From Puerto Rican family, grew up in the Bronx; studied piano at Juilliard; worked '40s-50s with Rafael Muñoz, Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, Pupi Campo, Johnny Seguí, Tito Rodríguez, Vicentico Valdés, Pete Terrace; also recorded with Latin jazz group (tracks on Continental '48 featuring Sabú Martínez on conga compiled on Cuban Rhythms By Peruchín And Charlie Palmieri '95 on Caney and again with Easy Does It '58 on Gone, latter incl. Johnny Pacheco playing conga and bongo). He formed Charanga 'La Duboney' late '59 with four violins, Pacheco on flute: Gilberto Valdés had been unsuccessful early '50s with charanga format, but Duboney's debut at a New Year's Eve dance launched a craze: they became so popular that they played several dances a night. 'La Duboney' LP debut was Let's Dance The Charanga! '60 on United Artists (reissued as Echoes Of An Era on West Side Latino), with vocalist Vitín Avilés (b 30 Sept. '24, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico); Pacheco left to form his own group. Switched to Al Santiago's Alegre label for three original and swinging Charanga 'La Duboney' volumes: Pachanga at the Caravana Club , Viva Palmieri and Salsa Na' Ma' Vol. 3 '61-63, as well as contribute tracks to Las Charangas - Pacheco, Palmieri, Fajardo '61.

He became mus. dir. for series of studio descarga (Latin jam session) LPs: four vols. by Alegre All Stars '61 to mid-'60s, inspired by the legendary Cuban Jam Session albums, in turn launching similar LPs by Kako, Pacheco, Osvaldo 'Chi Hua Hua' Martínez, Pupi Legarreta, as well as Tico, Cesta, Salsa, Fania and SAR All Stars (he played piano on Kako's After Hour Orchestra, Tico, Cesta and Salsa sessions). In the mid-'60s he joined Latin NY's 'swing to brass' and dropped violins and flute for three trumpets and two trombones; the new Duboney Orchestra incl. Bobby Valentín on trumpet, singer Victor Velázquez, made LP Tengo Maquina y Voy a 60 '65; briefly left Alegre to make LP Yenquele, Maria (Swing, Maria) for BG c '66 (reissued in Venezuela as Mas de Charlie Palmieri ), followed by the rock-solid Hay Que Estar En Algo/Either You Have It Or You Don't '67 back on Alegre; Latin Bugalu '68 on Atlantic was prod. by Herbie Mann; apart from cashing in on boogaloo craze (which he didn't care for) incl. Palmieri's classic composition "Mambo Show." In '69 he became Puente's advisor and right-hand-man on the TV show El Mundo De Tito Puente ; after series ended he began a subsidiary teaching career in Latin music and culture. He provided some exciting organ work to brother Eddie Palmieri's '71 recordings Vamonos Pa'l Monte , Harlem River Drive , Live At Sing Sing , Eddie Palmieri & Friends In Concert At The University of Puerto Rico and Live At Sing Sing Vol. 2 , issued '71-4. During the '70s Charlie recorded with horn section of two trumpets and Bobby Nelson doubling on sax and flute (adding trombone '77-78); played organ as well as piano; his best '70s LPs were probably El Gigante Del Teclado , Vuelve El Gigante and Adelante, Gigante '72-5, all on Alegre with lead singer Avilés; with his regular outfit he played organ only on Electro Duro '74 on Coco: the organ lent an unfortunate quality of kitsch to some of his work. Whilst an improvement, his Coco follow-up Impulsos '75 was a polished rehash of the funkier Charlie Palmieri c. '69 on Mary Lou, both incl. Velázquez. Charlie collaborated with Panamanian singer/composer Meñique (Miguel Barcasnegras) on Con Salsa y Sabor '77 on Cotique.

To celebrate the 17th anniversary of Alegre All Stars '77, ten veterans of the original studio descargas plus Louie Ramírez on vibes, young virtuoso flautist/clarinettist/saxist Bobby Rodríguez and members of his 'up & flying' band La Compañia were assembled under Palmieri's leadership for Perdido (Vol. 5 or 6?) (cuts from this LP and 60s Alegre All Stars sessions were later compiled on Te Invita '92 on Charly); he stayed with Alegre for The Heavyweight '78, with Meñique and Julito Villot sharing lead vocals, and performed and arranged on Vitín Avilés' solo LP Con Mucha Salsa '78; the commendable compilation Gigante Hits '78, selected by Al Santiago from Charlie's '65-75 period with Alegre, marked the end of his return stint with the label. In '79 he was featured in Jeremy Marre's TV film Salsa , teaching in a South Bronx school and playing electric piano with Puente. He went to Puerto Rico early '80, formed successful band but did not record; returned to NYC '83, suffered heart attack and stroke which left him half-paralysed; despite gloomy medical prognosis he recovered, made revered Latin jazz LP A Giant Step '84 on Tropical Budda, reviving Noro Morales' piano and rhythm (bass, timbales, conga, bongo) format. He co-led (with singer/percussionist Jimmy Sabater) Combo Gigante in NYC '86-88 incl. two trumpets, trombone, sax/flute; played piano on El Sabor Del Conjunto Candela/86 on Laslos, led by bongo/güiro player Ralphy Marzan, and on Joe Quijano's The World's Most Exciting Latin Orchestra & Review '88 on Cesta. Made long overdue UK debut June '88 at London's now closed Bass Clef backed by London-based Robin Jones' King Salsa; died from another heart attack three months later.

Tropical Budda posthumously issued Mambo Show '90 containing Latin jazz sessions by an all-star aggregation featuring Charlie (piano and co-prod.), conguero Mongo Santamaría, saxophonist José 'Chombo' Silva, trombonist Barry Rogers and others. As prod./A&R he worked with Celia Cruz, Puente, Rafael Cortijo, Ismael Rivera; played piano on LPs by Herbie Mann (The Family of Mann c '61 and Latin Mann mid-60s), Mon Rivera (his early '60s classic Que Gente Averigua), Cruz (her tremendous Son Con Guaguancó '66), Ismael Quintana Punto y Aparte '68), Cal Tjader (Primo '73), Raúl Marrero, Frankie Dante, Bobby Capó, Cachao (Cachao y su Descarga '77 Vol. 1 '76 and Dos '77), Machito (Fireworks '77), Mongo Santamaría (Red Hot '79 and Soy Yo '87), Ray Barretto (La Cuna '81), others; also performed on Eddie's '78 and '84 albums. The Montuno Sessions - Live From Studio 'A' '95 on Mr Bongo incl. three '80s radio sessions by Charlie.


-This is a revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com) for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UKú16.99.

They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Mr. Donald Clarke.



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