New York Times Performance Review – 2 Collaborators Meld Like Latin and Jazz (Nov.18, 2006)

The pianist Eddie Palmieri took a secondary role in a gig on Thursday night, something he doesn’t often do. It was in a Latin jazz group that looks a lot like one of Mr. Palmieri’s, but was led by the trumpeter Brian Lynch, who has played with Mr. Palmieri for almost 20 years.

Together, as the Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project, they have made a new record, “Simpatico” (ArtistShare). As a busman’s holiday, the record lets Mr. Lynch put forward some of his own Latin-jazz compositions, and lets Mr. Palmieri play some straight-ahead jazz piano. It’s a band leaking with talent, including the drummer Dafnis Prieto, the percussionist Pedro Martínez and the trombonist Conrad Herwig.

The show, at Iridium, made up of pieces from the record, would have been satisfying enough, even without Mr. Palmieri. Indeed, in the beginning it was: Manuel Valera, a young Cuban pianist, played the first few numbers.

But when Mr. Palmieri appeared, he demonstrated something that has nothing to do with form and everything to do with things that are more primitive and probably more important: the physical aspects of sound, and its obverse, empty space. His opening piano part in “Guajira Dubois” was a standard montuno vamp, part of Latin music’s alphabet. But when Mr. Palmieri played it, he sounded like an earth mover: he chose a tempo ever so slightly slower than normal, used octave voicings and created a keyboard sound that wasn’t necessarily loud but had enormous density.

Later, when he soloed in the tune, he made the music heave forward and then would stop completely, letting the rest of the band rush into his silence. When he returned, he built up so much intensity and presence with left-hand rhythm that he seemed absolutely free to do what he wanted with his right.

Mr. Lynch’s style of trumpet playing owes a lot to the rhythmic flash and harmonic jolts of bebop language — a stylish, cerebral thing — and he likes improvising that way within Cuban clave rhythm. He also likes writing that way, as demonstrated by a waltz-time tune the band played called “Slippery,” which he wrote with Mr. Palmieri. Mr. Palmieri’s contribution was the chordal structure; Mr. Lynch’s was the spiky melodic lines on top.

In the front line of horn players, Mr. Lynch’s foil was Mr. Herwig on trombone, who phrased in less bebop-based and more concretely riff-building ways. Like Mr. Palmieri, he always found a way to start with very basic phrases but to move them around through different chords, drive them hard and work up to moments of exquisite, almost physical tension.