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A self-taught Latin percussionist since the age of 12 when his father handed him Cal Tjader's 1960 Latino album featuring Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo back in 1966
My radio career started in 1985 after 8 years of club DJing in London at such clubs as the Paradise Garage in Lewisham, South London and the Bank night club in Chelsea.
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The Salsa version of Lin-Manual Miranda’s “Almost Like Praying” is well intentioned, but lacks in Salsa.
Veteran and multi-Grammy producer Sergio George took the project of trying to make a Salsa version of Lin-Manuel’s song to extend the collection of funds for Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria victims. However, Sergio had little to work with.
"Almost Like Praying" joined Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Sergio George
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sergio George gave a great effort to give more life to “Almost Like Praying” and to the victims of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico.
The Salsa version of “Almost Like Praying” adds some winds and Latin percussion to the song. But without the ability to re-make the rap-themed vocals, Sergio George had big constraints on what he could do to convert the song to into Salsa. It’s “almost like praying” he could have been able to re-record the vocals and add a coro!
All critique aside, I applaud Lin-Manuel and Sergio George for finding ways to try to make more money for Hurricane Maria’s relief fund. With around 40% of Puerto Rico residents still without power, a few of them since Hurricane Irma, which was 3 weeks before Maria, the funds are badly needed.
As I travel around Puerto Rico and talk to people, it’s incredible how the recovery from the devastation caused by Maria is still going and will continue to go for months and perhaps years to come. Five months after the hurricane, the devastation and recovery caused by last year hurricanes is still a mayor topic of any conversation you have in the island.
So whether the Salsa version of “Almost Like Praying” is a good Salsa conversion or not, it generates funds for victims that need it.
Pass the word around, and play the song a few times so that we can hear the sound (in Salsa or rap) of the cash register!
Here’s Sergio George’s Salsa version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Almost Like Praying”…
The writing’s on the wall, so bright it’ll sear your retinas: Reggaeton and trap win streaming. So if you’re an artist over 30 and you hope to stream successfully, adjust accordingly. This is true for Latin stars — check out new songs from Ricardo Montaner, Olga Tañon and Alejandro Sanz and Anglo stars alike: See recent singles from Katy Perry and Madonna.
Either Marc Anthony had his Aviators on while making his new album, Opus — or he is just blithely uninterested in the awkward contortions the middle-aged make when they attempt to seem hip. Salsa turned Anthony into a million-selling star in the Nineties, and salsa is what he gives you in 2019. He doesn’t even attempt another version of 2013’s Vivir Mi Vida which traded tenacity and specificity for the benign, anyone-can-chant-this qualities that make global hits.
Anthony’s refusal to change with the times on Opus is unfashionable, but intelligent. Change is one of pop’s most overused and inconsistently applied narratives — many transformations are ill-advised, and change for change’s sake isn’t all that different from inertia. Anthony, on the other hand, is focused on continuity. Opus is co-produced by Sergio George, who oversaw Anthony’s masterful 1995 breakthrough, Toda a Su Tiempo. The keyboard tuning sounds just as it did 25 years ago.
Many of the tracks on Opus aim for the melodic ferocity of Anthony’s Nineties catalog, with stampeding bass lines, strafing runs on the piano and magnificently coordinated horns “Parecen Viernes,” the end of “Reconozco”. There is princely attention to detail — listen to the way the strings double and then elaborate on the keyboard riff in “Un Amor Eterno” — and brass melodies that sound stirring enough to be stolen from a standard but are not “Lo Peor de Mi,” which throws in a killer key-change for good measure.
In the middle of the whirlwind, Anthony sings with tremendous ability, running notes down and sitting on them for long periods just because he can — and, it’s worth noting, the majority of his younger peers cannot. Every vulnerable quaver of Anthony’s voice doubles as a show of brute, you-can’t-touch-this strength.
Even with all the horsepower in these songs, they take their time and enjoy a longer game. Maybe that’s because they know something you don’t: In the final section of each, after a long simmer, everything finally boils over. At this point, it’s as if a musical relay race devolves into an all-out brawl. Anthony, his horns, his bass player, his pianist and his backup singers each attempt to wrest control of the track, vying for the honor of guiding it over the finish line. It turns out that continuity can be plenty exciting.
“Music means more to me now than ever' said Latin-jazz master Eddie Palmieri, who in his early days was known as Pancho Rompetecla “Pancho The Key Breaker” because of his explosive piano style.
Now embarked on a fall tour, the eight-time Grammy winner and his six-man band perform Saturday at Copley Symphony Hall as part of the San Diego Symphony’s Jazz at the Jacobs series.
On Dec. 7, he will release the big band-driven “Mi Luz Mayor” “My Oldest Light”, which features an array of guest artists, including Carlos Santana. It’s Palmieri’s second album of 2018 and the first on his own Uprising Music label, which is distributed by the indie label Ropeadope Records..
“Mayor” follows “Full Circle” — his 45th album, by most counts — and last year’s Afro-Caribbean-meets-New-Orleans gem, “Sabiduría” “Wisdom” — his first release since 2005. Factor in his groundbreaking new Palmieri Salsa Jams app and it’s clear this reinvigorated music maverick is back, with a vengeance.
“Well, not with a vengeance. It’s more that I came back because it seems they can’t do without me!” Palmieri said playfully by phone from his New York home.
“And I’m still alive and still loving what I do. Let me put it this way. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you have no business doing it. And there is nothing more important to me than the students who come behind me. Who will they listen to?”
Who? And how?
Palmieri Salsa Jams is billed as “the world’s first interactive salsa music app.”
Available through noted jazz trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Stretch Music App platform, Salsa Jams enables students to read sheet music or play along by ear for every song on Palmieri’s “Full Circle” album. They can also mute or fade out altogether any instrument, so that they can play that instrumental part, as well as control the tempo, loop rhythms and melodies, and more.
‘I put salsa on my spaghetti, baby!’
“If students mean anything to you, you want to set them on the right track,” said Palmieri, who — at 81 — is likely the most senior Latin music legend to release an app of any kind, let alone a salsa app.
Never mind that this bearded composer and band leader snorts with derision at the mere mention of the word salsa, which came to the fore in New York in the 1960s. He regards the commercial tag placed on this Cuban-inspired Latin dance music hybrid as simplistic and misleading.
“Fania Records came up with name ‘salsa’ and it’s a complete misnomer,” charged Palmieri, who in 1962 released his debut solo album, “La Perfecta,” on Fania and was later featured on the first Fania All-Stars album.
“Like my great friend, Tito Puente, used to say: ‘I put salsa on my spaghetti, baby!’ It (salsa) comes from rumba, guaracha, danzón, cha-cha, mambo, guaguancó, changüí. They all have their proper names, but we lump it under one name: ‘salsa’.”
By any name — and with, or without, any apps — Palmieri has been galvanizing audiences for more than 60 years. he will turn 82 on Dec. 15.
Like no one before or since, this Spanish Harlem-born son of Puerto Rican parents revolutionized Latin music. He changed its traditional instrumentation and fused classical dissonance, jazz improvisation and extended harmonies together with a panoply of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Palmieri also drew from soul and funk, and helped lay the foundation for several strains of what later became known as World Music.
For good measure, in the 1960s and 1970s, he made such politically charged works as “Mozambique,” “Harlem River Drive” (which was recorded live at Sing Sing prison and which he will revive and update next year and “Revolt/La Libertad Logico” “Revolt/Freedom Logically”. Palmieri’s stylistic diversity led to him sharing concert stages with everyone from Bob Marley and Bob Dylan to Gil Scott-Heron and the Grateful Dead.
“When I was starting out, I spent time analyzing all the Latin music orchestras who made 78 RPM records,” he recalled. “At that time, they had to record each song at (no more than) two minutes and 45 seconds. How could they create all that excitement in that short time? It was through tension and release, just like sex, and putting it in a rhythmic structure. It took me years to learn how to do that.”
Nobody alive compares with Eddie’
A 2013 NEA Jazz Master recipient, Palmieri was rivaled only by late jazz giants Miles Davis and Art Blakey in discovering and nurturing vital young artists.
Over the years, his bands have featured such notable musicians as saxophonist Donald Harrison, bassist Andy Gonzalez, and trombonist Conrad Herwig. That list also includes former San Diego trumpeter Brian Lynch, with whom Palmieri shared a 2007 Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy win for “Simpatico” by The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project.
“Nobody alive compares with Eddie. He pioneered Latin jazz and he’s the last man standing from his generation of innovators,” said eight-year Palmieri band mainstay Louis Fouché. He is also the alto saxophonist in Stay Human, the house band on TV’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“The energy Eddie puts into his music is incredible,” Fouché continued. “And his latest album, ‘Mi Luz Mayor,’ is — I think — historic.”
Featuring guest singers Gilberto Santa Rosa and Herman Olivera, Palmieri’s new album is a rarity for its era — a full-blown Latin music big band album. Along with two new Palmieri originals, it features classic songs he and his late wife, Iraida, cherished in their youth and danced to at home in their later years.
But this is no mere cha-cha down memory lane. Palmieri approaches this music with obvious reverence, but also gives it a fresh, contemporary edge to ensure “Mi Lus Mayor” is more than an exercise in well-honed nostalgia.
“The way Eddie brings together some of the old with some of the new is mind-blowing to me,” saxophonist Fouché said.
Palmieri speaks with a palpable depth of feeling about his wife, who died in 2014, and the new/old album he made in her memory. But he has another, more ambitious, goal with his upcoming album.
“If you listen to commercial radio, you really want to blow your brains out. And I’m in a good mood today!” said Palmieri, who hopes to provide a remedy for listeners, albeit one that may bypass radio.
“When I was 13, all the bodegas in New York had the radio on. And you could hear music by Machito and Tito Puente, all day long, that contained tension and release. What radio plays now is a disaster! It makes you fall asleep. There’s an excitement that comes out of our music, if it’s played properly.”
Palmieri chuckled approvingly when told it was difficult to think of another current major Latin jazz orchestra making albums like “Mi Luz Mayor.”
“You are now my favorite interviewer!” he said, then grew more serious.
“There’s a sadness in my heart, because no one else is making albums like this. They don’t know how. That spirit just doesn’t exist now.”
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A self-taught Latin percussionist since the age of 12 when his father handed him Cal Tjader's 1960 Latino album featuring Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo back in 1966, and an LP fiberglass conga and told him, "Here, learn to play right with these", he's been living and breathing Latin Jazz since. A computer network engineer during the day, Jim keeps busy as part of a team overseeing the health and security of the computer network of a major Massachusetts retail corporation. Jim is also a US Army Vietnam Era veteran and served as an Air Traffic Controller where he admits, "That was my first real foray out in radio broadcasting directing all those aircraft". Although the real commercial radio experience began at Worcester's WORC 1310AM in 2006 co-starring with Edwin Cancel, the first Latin Jazz show in Worcester called "Ran Kan Kan", named after a famous Tito Puente tune. The show lasted about six or so months when Edwin resigned and Jim took over the show and renamed it "Latin Jazz Sundays". Jim also hosted a Salsa show at the same station on Saturdays called "Salsa Dura Sabados", that's, "Hard Salsa Saturdays", and again on Sundays co-starring with Alex Vega on "Salsa Na' Ma". Both shows became major hits in Worcester's Latin community raising WORC to a 2.5 rating in the Arbitron radio charts and keeping it up there for two years. Although short-lived, but well remembered by his listeners, an opportunity opened up in Hartford Connecticut for Jim again at WNEZ 1230AM and a fusion of the two shows became and all Spanish language show called "Jazz Latino Ahora", that's, "Latin Jazz Now". Through all this Jim developed a following reaching New York, Florida, California, Hawaii, Canada, Sweden, Milan Italy, and Australia, thanks to the show being streamed across the internet. "I am honored to be surrounded by the finest and most supportive group of radio professionals in the world, helping me bring the finest Latin Jazz artists and their work to the whole world. Latin Jazz has a home on radio and here in New England", and it's called LATIN JAZZ NOW - JAZZ LATINO AHORA!"x
My radio career started in 1985 after 8 years of club DJing in London at such clubs as the Paradise Garage in Lewisham, South London and the Bank night club in Chelsea. My first radio show was at Radio Thamesmeadin South East London (Now time FM) where I presented many different shows from weekday breakfast and the midday slot to the late night show. I was also involved in several outside broadcasts from such venues as the London marathon (Studio facilities from a mobile studio at the start line) and the Danson Show in Welling which attracts some 30,000 visitors over a weekend in the summer. After 2 years at RTM, I defected to GCRM (Greenwich Community Radio Meridian) where I presented and produced a soul music show. This also involved outside broadcasts on special event AM licence transmissions, the most memorable from the London Marathon again but this time from a location next to the Cutty Sark ship, a famous tourist attraction on the bank of the river Thames.
It was the mid to late 1980's when I decided to approach Londons Biggest and most successful Pirate Radio Station LWR 92.5 FM which had been transmitting since 1980 to the whole of greater London in crystal clear FM stereo from secret studios safe from potential raids from the DTI by a clever infra red link. This involved siting the transmitter on a London Tower block with a uni-directional die pole antenna and creating a low level (hard to detect) signal link to the studio around half a mile away. All clever stuff. Although a pirate, LWR played non stop 24/7 soul music to a potential audience of millions within a 30 mile radius of central London. I remember one sunday driving through Southend-on-sea in Essex, turning on my car radio and hearing LWR beaming out from their Crystal Palace studios around 40 miles away ! I worked alongside legendary Radio 1 DJ's Tim Westwood and Pete Tong who were both regulars on the station at that early stage in their careers. The response we got from listeners with our on-air promotions for our soul "all dayer" events was just amazing. I remember appearing live on stage at the LWR soul all dayer at Camden Palace where a whopping 4000 people turned out, a testiment to our huge listenership back then.
I was presenting at LWR for some time in the late 80`s until I joined Joy Radio, ( www.joyradio.co.uk ) a rival FM pirate station, also with a huge transmission area beaming out across London from their Crystal Palace studio. The weekend breakfast show was great and I enjoyed every minute of my time there. Time to interview some celebrities ! Off I went to the London Weekend Television studios on the South Bank to do a pre-recorded interview with the top page 3 girl of that era, Samantha Fox.