By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hilo has the opportunity to hear four of the greatest musicians of their respective generations as the Eddie Palmieri-Brian Lynch Jazz Quartet graces the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center stage Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
The concert kicks off the UHHPAC 2012-13 season. Tickets are reserved seating and priced at $25 general, $20 discount and $12 UH students with ID and children, available at the UHHPAC box office from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call 974-7310 or order online at http://artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu.
Palmieri, a Latin jazz pianist who’ll turn 76 on Dec. 15, has been named a 2013 Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. The award, which Palmieri called “a tremendous honor,” comes with a $25,000 check. In 2009, his 1965 recording “Azucar Pa Ti” was inducted into the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress. But nothing, he said, compares with the nine Grammy awards on his mantle.
“It took 14 years to get a Grammy and at that time, there was only one Grammy for all the genres of Latin music and all the Latin musicians throughout the world,” he said. “I won that in ’75 and ’76. After that, we won seven more. My nephew says, ‘You got nine; you need to get one more for the other thumb.’”
Now, there is a Latin Grammys telecast with dozens of awards.
A personable, effervescent New Yorker whose parents came from Puerto Rico, Palmieri has been on the vanguard of Latin jazz for five decades. He keeps a touring schedule that would exhaust musicians half his age, having played three times this year in Europe, plus South Africa, Australia, Colombia, the Hollywood Bowl, the Monterey Jazz Festival and Japan.
“We did five nights at the Blue Note and we blew them away,” he said. “And we were there with the big band. We had a 12-piece band. It was extraordinarily successful.”
In Bogota, Colombia, his big band played to a crowd he estimated was “60-90 thousand people.”
“We never stop working,” he said. “We’re very fortunate because there are a lot of great musicians who are not working, who are not performing. Things are very bad economically all over the world and the first thing that gets hit is the entertainment field. We’re very fortunate. My son (Eddie Palmieri II, his manager) has done a great job of having us booked.”
Palmieri’s enjoyed a 20-year-plus association with Lynch, an Illinois-born trumpeter nearly two decades his junior. The Eddie Palmieri/Brian Lynch Project album “Simpático” won the 2006 Grammy for best Latin Jazz recording. The quartet, with upright bassist Luques Curtis and drummer/composer Dafnis Prieto, represents a rare foray into small-ensemble music for the renowned Afro-Caribbean maestro.
In addition to the Hilo shows, they’ll play two Oahu engagements — including the 2012 Manoa Jazz & Heritage Festival on Saturday — and a Maui show.
“We’re going to the schools to do some clinics with the students,” he said. “We’re all teachers. Brian Lynch is an assistant professor of music at the University of Miami. Dafnis is a natural teacher and so am I. Luques has been part of the Christian McBride clinics.”
Palmieri called the 29-year-old Curtis, who studied on a full scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, “the best I’ve ever worked with.”
“He knows exactly where I’m gonna go next without me even knowing I’m going there. He’s amazing,” he said.
And Prieto, who came to the U.S. in 1999 from Cuba, was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011. The award — unofficially known as the “genius grant” — comes with an unrestricted $500,000 to encourage future creativity.
“I guarantee the audience is gonna enjoy it, either dancing on their feet or dancing in their seats, because we’re gonna excite them,” Palmieri said. “I don’t doubt it; I know it.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.