He steps to the plate. His uniform is a little baggy on him; after all, he’s a 68-year-old man. But the look on his face, a tiny smile full of determination and pride, would fill any pitcher with fear.
Oh, man, it’s gonna be one of THOSE reviews. Eddie Palmieri is NOT a baseball player, he’s a pianist from New York City, with a resume—50 years in the salsa and Latin jazz game—that doesn’t need any kind of frippery. Why oh why do reviewers have to do crap like this?
The pitcher stares in to get the sign. He’s grizzled and gnarly, jaded, he’s heard it all before. He shakes off sign after sign, because he wants the fastball. No old man is gonna take him deep.
Why can’t this guy just SAY what the album’s about? That this is a big band jazz album that is also a Latin jazz album that is also occasionally a small group jazz album? That it’s got amazing guest stars like Christian McBride and Regina Carter as well as people we SHOULD have heard about, like percussionist Horacio “El Negro” Hernández and trombonist/arranger Doug Beavers, but that it never sounds like one of those crummy all-star albums by an old pro? That it is infectious and fun and sexy? Ugh, these highly-paid professional music “critics” and their “clever” tropes make me sick.
Windup, and the pitch, high and fast and inside—and OH MAN that ball is hit HARD to the opposite field! A towering blast! How does an old man have such bat speed?
The metaphor gets lamer as it goes along, which is really not very surprising at all. Here’s what this guy should have just said instead. “So far, after hearing more than 100 records in 2005, this is my favorite; Palmieri really knocked this one out of the park. We shouldn’t really be surprised that he had an album like this in him, because he’s been making great music for many years now. But the fact that Listen Here! has such a wide scope is extremely gratifying. It is adventurous without being pretentious, reckless but still controlled, both fun and challenging. When was the last time a towering achievement could also make you dance your ass off?” Man, I gotta do everything around here.
A tip of the cap to the home faithful as he rounds third, and a big smile for his teammates waiting for him at home plate, bouncing up and down, ready to whack him on the helmet in glee for his walk-off home run. It brings a tear to the eye, really it does.
Is it too much to ask for some specifics in a review any more? Is he really going to go through the whole thing without talking about Carter’s searing violin solo on “In Flight”, which is almost metallic in its intensity? How about the way that Michael Brecker channels both King Curtis and Stanley Turrentine on the propulsive track, only to cede the floor to McBride’s bass solo, which in turn sets the table for some serious Palmieri semi-avant-garde chording? Or the sensitive interplay between Palmieri, John Scofield’s guitar, and John Benitez’ bass on “La Gitana”? No mention of the closing jam, “EP Blues”, which has six different soloists and cooks like Iron Chef Afro-Cuban? And he’s really going to go with the baseball thing rather than discuss the fact that Palmieri actually sounds less like Thelonious Monk on the hot salsa-esque arrangement of “In Walked Bud” than on the ballad “Tema Para Eydie”? Pitiful.
Oh, you love to see things like this. It’s enough to renew your faith in humanity.
Okay, that part is true.
// Notes from the Road
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