There are leaders in all the activities that man develops in his daily life: Sports, Labor, Student, Political, Musical, even in comic strips you can see these leaders all the time, showing the way to follow and saving humanity from its natural dangers.
El Zorro with his friend Bernardo, his father Alejandro and even with Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes, saved California from the clutches of El Aguila, marking the way forward for the peace and freedom of his people.
In salsa, the same thing happens; there are musicians who set themselves up as leaders who dictate the path, the routes, the itinerary and the route where salsa should go, establishing through their musical performances where others should be guided on their way to certain triumph.
For salseros in general, Eddie Palmieri represents El Zorro of the comics, the leader to follow, the paladin of salsa, only that instead of looking like Diego de la Vega in physique, he looks more like Sergeant Garcia; backed by Ismael Quintana who would be El Cabo Reyes and Barry Rogers who would be Alejandro de la Vega.
It is no secret that Eduardo Palmieri is one of the initiators of the salsa movement in New York; but more than that, this master of the piano has established the paths along which salsa has walked since the 1960s.
Eddie was one of the first musicians to use the trombone as a determining instrument in the conformation of an orchestra, giving it a preponderance never seen before and with a sharp and hurtful sound that forced a large number of musicians to follow this type of orchestration that ended up imposing itself in the so-called salsa boom.
La Perfecta determined the path to follow; they recorded anthological albums in the 60’s that were the delirium of the salsa movement lovers; many musicians began to see and hear how the tonality of this orchestra sounded different from those big bands of the 50’s; the people of the neighborhood immediately identified with this sound because, they thought, it sounded like a neighborhood, a slum, poverty, marginality, inequality, it sounded like spite, nonconformity, injustice; in short, with this sound they perceived the most expensive needs of a population marginalized from the great plans of the State that entailed advancement and progress.
The decade of the 70’s meant the explosion of a salsa boom that swept the entire Caribbean basin; orchestras came and went; they came and disappeared; they recorded and were immediately lost in anonymity, but most of these orchestras chose the musical patterns of a common denominator to carry out their musical proposals: A Crazy, Bearded and Barrigón Orate named Eddie Palmieri, as the Colombian writer José Arteaga called him.
Eddie, throughout this decade, was practically on the sidelines of the salsa boom and it could not be otherwise: Too much irreverence from a superior musician who, being clear where salsa should walk, refused to be part of all the outrages that were committed during that salsa explosion.
Too much rebelliousness from an artist who refused to be told what he should and had to record: “Nobody tells me what I have to record and how I have to record; I’m the one who knows how to make music, the label bosses can go to hell with their desks”, an angry Palmieri would say.
The record label Epic signed him in 1978, telling him that he had complete freedom to record the music he wanted: a lie. He recorded the Lp Lucumi, Macumba and Vodoo where he was practically forced to work on an album where rhythms and trends were mixed.
He took advantage of the only freedom he was given to record two legendary songs: Colombia Te Canto and Mi Congo Te Llama.
Bad management and ill-advised decisions put an end to the whole salsa movement that was born in the 70’s and the unthinkable happened for all the lovers of this tasty way of life: the whole musical scaffolding that represented the Fania label collapsed, leaving everyone with clear eyes and without sight.
Clouds of disbelief and uncertainty hung over the entire salsa movement, musicians, producers, artist managers, arrangers, record label owners and, those who were most hurt by all this, the lovers of this superb spectrum of hard and powerful salsa that was experienced in the 70s.
In the 80’s, faced with this dilemma and the perplexity of the moment, most of the orchestras took refuge in the so-called Salsa Erotica or Salsa Monga, which although it is true that it gave oxygen to salsa in general, it inflicted a death blow to salsa dura or gorda as it has been called since the 70’s.
As if that were not enough, the merengueros with: Fernandito Villalona, Jerry Legrand, Jossie Esteban y la Patrulla 15, Wilfrido Vargas, Rubby Perez, Las Chicas del Can and stop counting, colluded with salsa erotica (as El Aguila colluded with El Magistrado), to try to wipe salsa dura off the map and at any price.
At the beginning of the 80’s; under all this conglomerate of adverse circumstances; the merengueros and “salseros eroticos” making a killing and the hard salsa artists not knowing which direction to take, Líder Palmieri appeared with his stocky and ungainly figure, a huge cigar in his mouth, his madness (we are even madder) and his voice saying clearly, categorically and confidently: “Follow me, this is the road to follow”.
And so that there would be no doubt about this call against Salsa Erotica and Merengue, in 1981 he recorded the Lp “Eddie Palmieri” which, almost 30 years after its release, we are still studying and listening to it to digest what El Sapo did in these 5 memorable songs: El Día que me Quieras; Ritmo Alegre, Paginas de Mujer, No Me Hagas Sufrir and Ven Ven.
Poster salsa on all four sides, atrabiliary percussion, indescribable trombones and trumpets, legendary voices, in short, a priceless LP. By the way, a certain current of opinion maintains that salsa is nothing more than Cuban music.
Under this prism, then we would have to say that this Palmieri’s version of Carlos Gardel’s El Día que me Quieras, is a full-fledged Tango.
In 1984 and when the “erotic” ones were widening their tentacles, Palmieri came with more fuel and that added to the bad experience lived in Venezuela with some businessmen who were determined to finish with him, musically speaking, allowed him to release the Lp “Palo Pa Rumba”, containing the pieces: 1983, Bomba de Corazón, Bajo con Tumbao, Pensando en Ti, Palo Pa Rumba and two songs dedicated to Venezuela because of the bitter and vexatious experience he had in our beloved homeland of names: Venezuela and Prohibición de Salida.
In 1985 the Lp “Solito” was released, a song that allowed Palmieri to tell the “eroticos” that there was a formula for arranging music that sounded strong and powerful, even if the content of the lyrics could suggest a certain shade of erotic salsa; that the trombones could sound energetic and strong without the sweetening and softness to which these hardened instruments were subjected in this decade; that it was not necessary to be bonitillo (as the Boricuas say) to succeed in this salsa environment and that, no matter what happened, he, Eddie Palmieri, was not going to be subjugated no matter how much salsa erotica the record companies demanded and played on the radio, emphasizing this statement with an abysmal piano solo.
To complete the LP: Justicia, Yo No Soy Guapo, Cada Vez que te Veo, Lindo Yambú and Pa Los Congos, round out his confrontation with “aquella” salsa.
To top off the decade, in 1987 he recorded the Lp “La Verdad”, in which with the piece El Cuarto in the voice of Tony Vega ratified his point of view regarding “erotic” salsa; that it is not necessary to fall into pornography to say “nice things” and arrange the music with enough flavor and sandunga and that, finally, nothing would prevent him from continuing to crush his opinion based on hard and powerful salsa.
As if that were not enough, for this album he made use of a beastly orchestra made up of four trumpets, two trombones and a saxophone that left on the acetate: Conga Yambumba, La Verdad, Lisa, Noble Cruise and Buscándote.
The result of all this decade of salsa gorda music for Eddie Palmieri? Three Grammy awards and the recognition of a whole legion of hardcore salseros, who were not intimidated by the onslaught of the “erotic” and “merenguera” fashions of the moment and decided, in the face of so much sweet, effeminate and subtle trombone, to follow in the footsteps of the leader: El Zorro, sorry I made a mistake, by El Sapo Eduardo Palmieri.
Source: Larry Daniel Cabello Guzmán
Dj. Augusto Felibertt