La Herencia

by: Charlie Palmieri

Though older, Charlie Palmieri's recognition as one of the greatest purveyors of Afro-Caribbean music has been overshadowed by his more flamboyant --and equally talented -- brother Eddie. Charlie died in 1988, and his music has been almost criminally under-anthologized. The Heritage series on Fania attempts to correct this with a single-disc collection of 16 tracks from throughout Palmieri's career with Alegre and Fania, and does a very good job overall. The first four cuts are culled from three albums he cut for Alegre with his traditional charanga orchestra the Duboney -- a band he founded with Johnny Pacheco. Amid the strings and flutes that are the music's signature on record, one can hear in "Amor for Two," from 1963, his first experiment with bossa nova. His first set of fills quotes humorously from "Yankee Doodle," and brings irony into the rhythm, but his solo is pure bossa jazz invention. Speaking of jazz, "Estoy Buscando a Kako," a cut from his tenure as bandleader of the Alegre All-Stars, is buoyed by Palmieri's fantastic swinging saxophone and trombone chart, before a charanga-style flute solo and the rhythm section pop it all into a jazz groove. His piano is all percussive finger-popping flash. His brief flirtation with boogaloo is present in "Fat Papa," from Either You Have It or You Don't, where the lyrics are in English and one can hear the humor in his presentation. Cuts from the '70s, such as the party anthem "Despierta Julien" (with Palmieri's killer organ solo), the hilarious "El Susto," and "Melodica in 'F'" (with Palmieri making one of his signature appearances on the small instrument), add depth and dimension to this portrait of the musician as an innovator who nonetheless loved to keep a bit of the elegant and graceful in everything he recorded; from track to track, the rhythmic invention of his own piano playing is simply stellar, as are his arrangements. Certainly there is a lot missing from a single-disc compilation, but what is here is a terrific start, one that provides an excellent introduction to both the artist and his legacy. ~ Thom Jurek

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