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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America


Published June 4, 2006

Ritmo Caliente
Concord Picante

On Ritmo Caliente the East Harlem-born bandleader and pianist revisits salsa roots with another twist. The La Perfecta 2 collection, with the newly reunited trombone-heavy La Perfecta, mixed his 1960s hits with original compositions incorporating R&B, rock and improvisation. Now, on Ritmo, Palmieri adds a classical touch. Other influences poke through: Palmieri quotes Dizzy Gillespie on “Ritmo Caliente” and tinkles amiably through a jazz-blues romp, “Tema Para Renee.” Dance remains the raison d’etre of his band - witness opener “La Voz del Caribe” and La Perfecta’s progress through the slow burn of the 1960’s “Lazaro y Su Microfono” (given a charming cha-cha treatment), “Dime,” a fierce mambo featuring vocalist Herman Olivera, and the happily rhythmic “Sujetate La Lengua.” But it is “Gigue (Bach Goes Bata)” Palmieri truly plays with his heart. He leads his ensemble (boasting several new members, including trombonist Conrad Herwig) through a baroque-style piece that falls into a bata, leading dancers from bolero movements to energy-releasing hip-swaying. On the fine Ritmo Caliente Palmieri slips easily into Latin-jazz-icon mode.