Presidential Medal - Cultural Impact
Eddie Palmieri - Ten-time Grammy Award Winner

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 his Puerto Rican heritage with the melody and complexity of his jazz influences: his older brother Charlie, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner.

Palmieri's parents emigrated from Ponce, Puerto Rico to New York City in 1925, and he grew up in Spanish Harlem, which was also known as “El Barrio” due to its large Latino community. Palmieri learned to play the piano at an early age, and at 13, he joined his uncle's orchestra, playing timbales. 

Palmieri's professional career as a pianist took off in the early 1950s when he played with various bands: Eddie Forrester's Orchestra, Johnny Segui's band, and the popular Tito Rodriguez Orchestra. In 1961, Palmieri formed his own band, La Perfecta, which featured an unconventional front line of trombones rather than the trumpets customary in Latin orchestras. This created an innovative sound that mixed American jazz into the Latin performances, surprising critics and fans alike. Palmieri disbanded La Perfecta in 1968, though he would return to the band's music in the 2000s. Palmieri perfected his arranging skills in the 1970s, releasing several impressive recordings that reflected his unorthodox approach to music, such as the groundbreaking 1970 release Harlem River Drive, which merged musical categories into a freeform sound that encompassed elements of salsa, funk, soul, and jazz. In 1975, Palmieri won the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Latin Recording for his album, "The Sun of Latin Music", (he has won ten Grammys altogether to date, including two for his influential (2000) recording with Tito Puente, "Obra Maestra/Masterpiece"). 

In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, recorded two of Palmieri's performances for its archives. Because of Palmieri's proclivity for creating and performing in funk Latin style, Little Louie Vega invited him to record on "Nuyorican Soul" (1997), a release that became very popular in the house and underground music scenes.

In addition to the Grammy Awards, Palmieri has received two honorary Doctorate of Music degrees, Berklee College of Music in 1998, and Lehman College in the Bronx in 2017. Other honors include the Eubie Blake Award (1991); the Award for Most Exciting Latin Performance, presented by the BBC in London (2002); Yale University's Chubb Fellowship for Palmieri's work building communities through music (2002); the Harlem Renaissance Award (2005); the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award (2008); along with Palmieri's induction into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.

In 2009 the Library of Congress added Palmieri's composition "Azucar Pa' Ti" to the National Recording Registry, recognized as the exemplary new Latin sound that he and his eighth piece "La Perfecta" band were playing nightly in New York nightclubs and ballrooms in the early 1960s, and it set trends for years to come. In 2013 Palmieri was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Grammy’s, as well as the honor of NEA Jazz Master. The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowships are the highest honors that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians.

Palmieri continued to innovate, celebrating 75 years with new music included in the original score for a documentary co-directed by Bobbito Garcia called “Doin' it in the Park”, that explored the cultural influence of playground basketball on sports and music. Palmieri’s music recorded for the documentary was released as a soundtrack in November of 2013.

Palmieri released singles in 2015 of a new big band version of his classic composition, Vámonos P’al Monte", along with the first ever studio recording of another popular Palmieri original, "Pa’ La Ocha Tambo".

In 2017 Palmieri released his newest musical project, “Sabiduría / Wisdom", a fusion of Jazz, Funk, and Latin fused with Afro-World rhythms. Palmieri has additional projects to be released soon, seven classic songs to be included in an interactive app, as well as a big band album, entitled "Mi Luz Mayor", which features guest artists Carlos Santana and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

Eddie Palmieri celebrated his 80th Birthday on December 15, 2016. Eddie Palmieri proudly endorses Yamaha Pianos.

All of Eddie Palmieri’s new music will be released in successive volumes commemorating his 80th Year along with a tour entitled “EP @ 80.” 

Eddie Palmieri, a restless, yet instinctive artist, embraces the future of his music by unapologetically blazing a distinctive musical path to the delight of fans across the globe. A true powerhouse of brilliance, known for his astute arranging skills and historic compositions, Mr. Palmieri has shown that time is infinite with respect to his repertoire as he continues to thrill audiences throughout the world with his legendary style. 

Selected Discography:

  • La Perfecta, 1962
  • Azucar Pa´Ti (Sugar for You), 1965
  • Eddie Palmieri and Cal Tjader, El Sonido Nuevo: The New Sound, 1966
  • Justicia, 1969
  • Harlem River Drive, 1971
  • Recorded Live at Sing Sing, Vol. 1, 1972
  • Sentido, 1973
  • The Sun of Latin Music, 1974
  • Lucumi, Macumba, Voodoo, 1978
  • Palmas, 1994
  • Masterpiece / Obra Maestra, With Tito Puente, 2000
  • La Perfecta II, 2002
  • Listen Here, 2005
  • Va´monos Pal  Monte, 2015
  • Pa´ la Ocha Tambo, 2015
  • Sabiduria (Wisdom), 2017



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