Another birthday bash

December 20, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to The Sun

A year ago, Latin jazz great Eddie Palmieri celebrated his 70th birthday in the 75-seat An die Musik venue on North Charles Street.

For someone used to playing in much larger venues, An die Musik was a change. The venue is so small that people can't even stand up and dance. But the intimate size gave the performance an intensely personal feel and meant that Palmieri was even able to share his birthday cake with audience members who wanted a slice.

The event went so well that Palmieri, a pianist and bandleader, is returning to celebrate his 71st birthday at the Baltimore venue. He will perform at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.

"It just seems that I'm always landing in Baltimore around the time of my birthday," said Palmieri, who actually turned 71 on Dec. 15. "It's a real small room, and it's enjoyable to see the people enjoy themselves and to be in that close proximity with the audience."

Palmieri said he first came to An die Musik as a favor to its owner, Henry Wong, whom he has known for a long time.

"We've always been trying to bring such a musical giant to Baltimore," said Wong. "We tried to lure him for several years and finally got him last year. It was a matter of finding the right opportunity."

Last year, Palmieri performed with trumpet master Brian Lynch, with whom he has been playing for 20 years. For his coming Baltimore shows, he's adding a third musician, bass player Luques Curtis, a "really talented young man," said Palmieri, speaking by phone from his Queens, N.Y., residence.

It's been an eventful year for Palmieri, who won his ninth Grammy Award for Simpatico in the Best Latin Jazz Album category. Simpatico is a collaboration with Lynch.

During his 50-year career as a pianist and bandleader of salsa and Latin jazz orchestras, Palmieri can boast a discography of 32 titles, including Masterpiece/Obra Maestra with Tito Puente, which won in both the Latin Grammy and traditional Grammy categories in 2000.

Palmieri is "always on the move," Wong said, touring Europe, Asia and elsewhere with either a seven- or eight-piece Latin jazz band.

But he chose a smaller configuration for the intimate An die Musik setting. Last year, said Wong, members of the audience came from as far as Virginia and Pennsylvania "to catch a glimpse, to see this particular artist in a very intimate setting." All four shows were sold out, he said.

"It's almost like you're invited to somebody's house to hear these artists," said Wong, whose club showcases both up-and-coming and better-known jazz musicians on a regular basis.

Between An die Musik shows last year, he surprised Palmieri with a birthday cake. Palmieri blew out the candles, then shared the confection with audience members. Wong plans to give Palmieri another cake this year.

In fact, he'd love for Palmieri to return to An die Musik every December for a birthday celebration. For his part, Palmieri said he'll have to wait and see. But he promised the audience a terrific show.

"It's a nice exchange between the trumpet, bass and piano, and they're really going to enjoy it," Palmieri said.

Eddie Palmieri performs at An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles St., at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday. Tickets are $30-$35. Go to andiemusiklive.com or visit the venue's box office. Information: Call 410-385-2638.

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