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Eddie Palmieri to headline El Jolgorio Navideño

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Eddie Palmieri to headline El Jolgorio Navideño
Eddie Palmieri (Photo: Courtesy Eddie Palmieri)

This Saturday, Latin jazz legend Eddie Palmieri will headline El Jolgorio Navideño, the largest Latino holiday gathering in New England. Born in Spanish Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Palmieri founded his own band, La Perfecta, in 1961 and has been making music history ever since.

“My music uses the harmonic structures of jazz with the rhythms of salsa and merengue,” says Palmieri. “Whether you’re Puerto Rican, Dominican or Cuban, you will be dancing.”

The artist was first introduced to Latin jazz on the streets of Harlem. While he played on the street with his friends, Palmieri could hear the sounds of commercial radio drifting out of nearby bodegas. It was always playing Latin dance music, and from there his obsession was born.

Palmieri connects the roots of Latin music, particularly the Cuban rumba, to African tempos. In describing his own music, he draws a line from the chanted tunes of slaves in early America to the jazz of Spanish Harlem. “It’s the most brutal story of human treatment,” he says. “But years later, that rumba put the world to dance.” Seeing his audience move brings more joy to Palmieri than any other aspect of performing. Ironically, he’s not much of a mover and shaker himself. “I was told by Tito Puente that I was a terrible dancer,” he says, laughing. He expects to be sticking to the stage during El Jolgorio.

Local beneficiaries

Community leader Jaime Rodriguez founded El Jolgorio Navideño in 1989 as an intimate, community-led Puerto Rican holiday celebration. In a town fiercely segregated by neighborhood lines, the gala fosters an underserved Latin community. Proceeds from this year’s fest will benefit the Talented and Gifted (TAG) Association, Inc. and its work supporting the TAG Latino Program and the PANAS Mentoring Program of UMass Boston.

PANAS connects Latino Boston Public School students with college-age and young professional mentors to help them achieve personal and academic success. Often, PANAS mentees have just immigrated to the United States and need guidance to assimilate to the new culture and academic standards.

Mentorship has played a big role in Palmieri’s musical growth as well. His older brother Charlie fostered his interest in music and the duo recorded albums together for many years. Now, Palmieri is passing on his wisdom to the younger members of his band. “I love to see them learn and develop the styles that I played,” he says. “There’s a mutual respect there.”

A longtime player of Boston clubs, Palmieri is excited to perform for the large crowd. It has been 25 years since he played in the city with a full orchestra. “The Latin community is beautiful in Boston,” he says. “And I’m going to have every one of them on their feet.”

On the Web

For more on this year’s El Jolgorio Navideño, visit: www.evensi.us/jol…

For more on Eddie Palmieri, visit: http://palmierimu…