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Charlie Palmieri

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  • Born: New York, NY
  • Died: New York, NY
  • Years Active: 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

The older brother of Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri was every bit as gifted a pianist as his sibling, very percussive and responsive to rhythm while also flashing florid passages that were clearly the product of a classical education. His piano studies began at seven and he attended the Juilliard School of Music, turning pro at 16. He started the group El Conjunto Pin Pin in 1948, and then played in a series of ensembles -- including those of Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Pupi Campo -- before forming his own Charanga Duboney group in 1958. As music director of the Alegre All Stars while recording for the Alegre label in the 1960s, Palmieri stimulated competition among Latin labels like Tico and Fania, which formed their own all-star bands in response. Like many Latin jazz artists of the time, Palmieri flirted with the popular Latin boogaloo style in the 1960s and made some records for major labels like RCA Victor and Atlantic. He endured a near mental breakdown in 1969, but rebounded to work again for Puente on his El Mambo de Tito Puente television program, and he also found a second career as a historian and teacher of Latin music and history at various New York colleges in the 1970s. Palmieri moved briefly to Puerto Rico from 1980 to 1983, and after suffering a severe heart attack and stroke upon his return to New York, he recovered to lead various Latin combos, including Combo Gigante. One of his last recordings was a galvanizing cameo appearance on Mongo Santamaria's "Mayeya" in 1987 (now on Mongo's Afro Blue: The Picante Collection for Concord Picante), and he appeared in England for the first time in 1988 shortly before his death. Almost all of Palmieri's work is hard to find through domestic channels, but Messidor's A Giant Step is available on CD.


Charlie Palmieri (November 21, 1927 – September 12, 1988) was a renowned bandleader and musical director of salsa music. He was known as "The Giant of the Keyboards".

Early years[edit]

Palmieri's parents migrated to New York from Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1926 and settled down in the South Bronx where Palmieri (birth name: Carlos Manuel Palmieri) was born. As a child, Palmieri taught himself to play the piano by ear. He attended the public school system. At age 7, his father enrolled him at The Juilliard School, where he took piano lessons. By the time Palmieri was 14 years old, he and his 5-year old brother, Eddie, participated in many talent contests, often winning prizes. It was at this time that his godfather introduced him to the music of the Latin bands - an experience which inspired him to become a musician.

In 1943, when still only 16 years old and still in high school, he made his professional debut as a piano player for the Osario Selasie Band. He graduated from high school in 1946, and immediately went to play for various bands. He made his recording debut with the song "Se Va La Rumba" as a member of the Rafael Muñiz Band.

^ Charlie Palmieri Bio^ All about Jazz

Musical career[edit]

In October 1947, Tito Puente, the musical director of the Fernando Álvarez Band, was impressed with Palmieri and hired him to play for his band at the Copacabana Club; here he played with Tito until 1953 and during the 1950s he played with various bands. Besides having played with Tito Puente, he played with Pupi Campo's Band and worked on Jack Paar's CBS daytime television show. Palmieri also formed a couple of bands that performed at the Palladium Ballroom - these were however short-lived because of a lack of work. During this time, he also worked as an accompanist for other bands.

Palmieri worked for several years in Chicago, but returned to New York and formed a band called "Charanga La Duboney". While performing at the Monte Carlo Ballroom, Palmieri heard a young man by the name of Johnny Pacheco playing the flute - the playing so impressed him that he hired him on the spot. The mixture of Pacheco's flute with the strings of the violins in Palmieri's band led to the 1960s Charanga craze in the United States. Palmieri was signed by the United Artists Record company and had several Latino hits. Palmieri did however suffer various setbacks - first Pacheco left the band and then United Artists cancelled his contract because of a conflict of interest with their other recording star, Tito Rodríguez. This led to Palmieri's signing with the Alegre Records label and with whom he had two best selling "hits" with "Como Bailan La Pachanga" and "La Pachanga Se Baila Así".

When the Charanga craze declined in popularity, Palmieri switched to the new trend, the Boogaloo, by replacing the flute and violins with three trumpets and two trombones, he also dropped the word "Charanga" from his bands' name and it became known simply as "La Duboney". In 1965, he scored a hit with "Tengo Máquina y Voy a 60" (Going like 60) and in 1967 with "Hay Que Estar En Algo/Either You Have It or You Don't". In 1968, Palmieri recorded "Latin Bugalú" under the Atlantic Records label, which was also released in the United Kingdom.

In the 1970s, Palmieri worked as the musical director for Tito Puente's television show "El Mundo de Tito Puente" (Tito Puente's World). He also taught and lectured about Latin music and culture at various educational institutions. After reorganizing his band, Palmieri played the organ and recorded "La Hija de Lola" (Lola's daughter) and "La Vecina" (The neighbor). In 1971, he provided his organ playing talents to some of his brother's recordings. In 1978, he added the Melódica to his recording The Heavyweight, an LP recorded for Alegre Records that also featured Bobby Rodríguez on bass, Quique Dávila on timbales, Papiro Allende on congas, Willie Rodríguez on bongoes, Roy Román y Lou Laurita on trumpets, Bobby Nelson on sax, Marco Katz on trombone, Harry Viggiano on tres, and the vocalists Meñique, Julito Villot, and Adalberto Santiago.

Among the artists Palmieri worked with at one time or another were his brother Eddie, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Herbie Mann, Ismael Rivera, Rafael Cortijo, Ismael Quintana, Bobby Capó, Mongo Santamaría and Ray Barretto.

^ Music of Puerto Rico^ Cite error: The named reference CPB was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Cite error: The named reference Jazz was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Descarga^ Barnes and Noble - Charlie Palmieri

Later years[edit]

In 1980, Palmieri moved back to Puerto Rico but returned to New York for business - on one trip there he suffered a massive heart attack and stroke. He soon recovered and returned to the music world as the member of various bands. On June 1988, he debuted in the United Kingdom accompanied by London's Robin "King Salsa" Jones.

Palmieri gave private piano lessons to students at the Schuylerville Music Center in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx in New York. During this time he also appeared in the 1988 movie Salsa.

Four days before his death, Palmieri gave a private show at La Fortaleza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he performed solo at the piano for the Governor of Puerto Rico (at the time, Rafael Hernández Colón) and his guests. On September 12, 1988, Charlie Palmieri suffered another heart attack upon his arrival at New York where as the musical director of the Joe Cuba Sextet he was to arrange a concert. He died later that day at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx.

^ Cite error: The named reference Jazz was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Cite error: The named reference CPB was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

Tributes [edit]

On November 6, 2004, a Big Band Tribute to Charlie Palmieri was held at Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts hosts an annual competition for the Charlie Palmieri Memorial Piano Scholarship. The winner of the competition receives a scholarship to study Latin piano music at the Conservatory. The scholarship was started by Palmieri's lifetime friend, the late Tito Puente.

Another notable friend and colleague of Palmieri's, as well as a great admirer, was the late Clare Fischer, who chose to kick off his 1989 album, Lembranças (Remembrances), with "C.P.", a piece dedicated to the composer's recently departed role model. In Fischer's words:

"C.P. - Charlie Palmieri - is dedicated to the wonderfully exciting pianist whom I have idolized for years! Charlie left us last year and the sadness I felt shows itself in some of the segments interspersed among the more spirited sections. We will miss him!"

^ Eddie Palmieri pays tribute to his brother^ Fischer, Clare. Liner Notes for Lembrancas. Concord Picante. March 1990.
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