Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Eddie Palmieri: Ritmo Caliente [Concord, 2004]
Like Milton Nascimento and Astor Piazzolla, Palmieri enjoys a prestige based on his pretensions as well as his talent. Check 1974's pivotal The Sun of Latin Music and notice how many bases it touches. To list the obvious, there's a full-fledged suite; pianistics that recall Monk, Tyner, even Cecil Taylor; a snatch of Abbey Road; a conga workout; a salsa tour; a simple cumbia arted up with a bass-and-piano break; and--crucially--enough cheese. Times having changed, this equally far-reaching album seems less epochal (and is definitely less cheesy). But I insist that its intrinsic musicality equals if not exceeds that of The Sun of Latin Music, and suspect that it's one of Palmieri's best. The impressionistic "Tema para Renée" is an art move; so is the graceful and audacious "Gigue (Bach Goes Batá)." But in general the old man nails the good old three-and-two through a panoply of variations. You may recall that Palmieri likes to dust off his chops with a ruminative exordium. Here it's his pride to state the beat. A-