2015 Healdsburg Jazz Festival – Day 3
Pablo Ziegler Jazz Trio for New Tango, Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet
In keeping with tradition, the 17th annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival once again brings an illuminating thematic frame to the first of its two weekends. “Jazz and the Music of the Americas” is a two-day festival-within-a-festival interweaving musicians and idioms from Brazil, Argentina, and points Caribbean.
First Set: Pablo Ziegler Jazz Trio for New Tango
The “Jazz and the Music of the Americas,” theme continues with a West Coast coup, upon the arrival of the trio led by Argentine pianist Pablo Ziegler, widely deemed the heir to the “Nuevo Tango” royalty status of his former collaborator, the late bandoneon master Astor Piazzolla.
Via nuevo tango, Piazzolla found ways to blend traditional tango of his homeland, lessons learned from European classical music—and generous doses of jazz sensibilities, harmonies and attitudes in his unique mix. Alongside the master, there was Ziegler, a potent right-hand band member in Piazzolla’s group for a decade (before Piazzolla’s health-mandated retirement in 1989).
Ziegler, who has also worked with Gary Burton and on the stricter jazz end of the spectrum, was both a Piazzolla band mate and co-creator of the jazz-inflected, improvisation-charged “Nuevo Tango” idiom. The pianist has branched out on his own, establishing a solid solo career and artistic voice of his own, carrying the “Nuevo Tango” torch forward, winning of a Latin American Grammy in 2003, for Bajo Cerro, and boasting two Grammy nominations for 2013’s Amsterdam meets New Tango, a collaboration with the world-renowned Metropol Orkest.
In Healdsburg, Ziegler’s Jazz Trio for New Tango finds the leader in a sympathetic and intimate setting with bandoneon player Hector Del Curto and guitarist Claudio Ragazzi, in what promises to be a thrilling, romantic and progressive musical encounter from another, extremely southern corner of the Americas.
Second Set: Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet
Certain names in jazz speak volumes, conveying definitive and resonating with historical and stylistic importance owing to their influential cultural contributions. When it comes to the deep and natural merger of Latin and Jazz, the name Eddie Palmieri has that effect, as the proverbial living legend—now more than 50 years into his musical adventure—who has done more to cement and to unify the hybrid of Latin Jazz than most anyone in the field.
Needless to say, Palmieri’s position as the finale of the Healdsburg’s mini-festival will end things on a high, authentic and mightily grooving note. Born in Spanish Harlem in 1936, and with Puerto Rican roots running deep in his familial and musical lineage, pianist Palmieri played as a sideman with Tito Rodriguez and others, but followed his natural leader impulses into creating the influential band La Perfecta in the early ‘60s.
In its earliest stage, La Perfecta (revived as La Perfect II in the 2000s) leaned on the sound of twin trombones and forging a style “Tombanga,” vis a vis the trombones and mutation of the “charanga” style he molded into his own jazz-infused mode, with the pianist’s own virtuosic and rhythmically propulsive mastery of the keyboard and wise, wide ears for a tight band sound.
Over the decades, Palmieri has been the recipient of a long, and expanding, list of deserved awards, including the NEA Jazz Master laurel in 2013, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Latin Grammy Awards, and 11 Grammy awards, poll-topping honors and more. The NEA award was granted with a declaration, stating in part: “Known as one of the finest Latin jazz pianists of the past 50 years, Eddie Palmieri is also known as a bandleader of both salsa and Latin jazz orchestras. His playing skillfully fuses the rhythm of Puerto Rico with the melody and complexity of his jazz influences: Thelonious Monk and NEA Jazz Masters Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner.”
Palmieri’s band and musical energies are very much alive and afire in the present day, at Healdsburg, the ageless powerhouse of a leader brings his Latin Jazz Septet out west, with Jonathan Powell on trumpet, Louis Fouche on alto sax, bassist Luques Curtis and the all-important percussion drive train of Anthony Carrillo on bongos, Vincente “Little Johnny” Rivero on congas and timbalero Camilo Molina. Seven voices in the band, tightly interwoven, and decades of musical wisdom from the exuberant, smile-ready leader’s perch add up to a repeatedly unforgettable listening experience. Expect the same in Healdsburg.