By Ted Panken | Published June 2017
In the publicity materials for Sabiduría, maestro Eddie Palmieri’s 80th birthday gift to his public, Ropeadope proposes that it “may well be the best Latin Jazz record ever made.” Hyperbole? Perhaps, but Palmieri’s first new album since 2006 is a formidable work, featuring a pair of recontextualized past hits and 10 recent compositions that reference the various streams of his musical production.
Palmieri divvies up the interpretative duties among a cohort of individualistic guest improvisers, propelled by his own mighty comping, Luques Curtis’ informed catgut bass lines and the percolating interlocking drums of conguero “Little Johnny” Rivero, timbaleros Camilo Molina and Luisito Quintero and bonguero Anthony Carrillo, configured in various combinations.
Vibraphonist Joe Locke imprints his stamp on “Samba Do Suenho,” from the Palmieri-Cal Tjader classic Bamboleate, and Donald Harrison, a frequent collaborator since the mid-’90s heyday of the Afro-Caribbean Sextet, improvises fiercely over the Caribbean-meets-Crescent City “Augustine Parish.” Alfredo De La Fé bows and plucks over Palmieri’s clusters on “Cuerdas Y Tumbao,” while Cuber, David Spinozza, Marcus Miller and Bernard Purdie funk up the title track, a boogaloo that stands with any of Palmieri’s past offerings in that genre. Still, it’s Palmieri whose sui generis piano voice steals the show.
Sabiduría: Cuerdas Y Tumbao; Wise Bata Blues; Sabiduría; La Cancha; Augustine Parish; Life; Samba Do Suenho; Spinal Volt; The Uprising; Coast To Coast; Locked In; Jibarita y Su Son (74:39)
Personnel: Eddie Palmieri, piano; Vicente “Little Johnny” Rivero, congas, bata; Camilo Molina, timbales, bata; Anthony Carrillo, bongo, cowbell; Luisito Quintero, timbales; Luques Curtis, bass; Jon- athan Powell, John Walsh, trumpet; Louis Fouche, alto saxophone; Joe Locke, vibraphone; Donald Harrison, alto saxophone, vocals; Alfredo de la Fé, violin; Ronnie Cuber, baritone saxophone; Obed Calvaire, drums; Bernard Purdie, drums; David Spinozza, guitar; Marcus Miller, electric bass.