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Famed pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri won nine Grammy Awards throughout his career, for albums like The Sun of Latin Music, Solito and Masterpiece.
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The unusual mixture became the Palmieri signature sound. Eddie's brother Charlie dubbed the creation "trombanga," a combination of the word "trombone" and the name of the traditional "charanga" musical style. His music struck a chord with New York's Latin community and, not long after he unveiled his cutting-edge style, Palmieri's band members found themselves competing with the big three Latin jazz giants of the time: Machito, Tito Puente,
and Tito Rodriguez.
By 1962, Palmieri had recorded the band's first album, La Perfecta, under the Allegre label. The group continued to release albums at a prodigious rate, recording Echando Pa'lante (1964), Lo Que Traigo Es Sabroso (1964), Azucar Pa' Ti (1965), Mozambique (1966), Mambo con Conga Is Mozambique (1967), Bambolv©ate (1967), and Molasses (1967) before they disbanded in 1968.
Palmieri was unfazed by the break-up of his band. Instead, he began a new super-group with his brother Charlie, as well as musicians Victor Venegas, Andy Gonzales, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, and Ronnie Cuber. Together they started work on a new style that further blended traditional Latin music with Afro-Cuban influences. The result was the popular and critically acclaimed Harlem River Drive (1971), an album that showcased elements of salsa, funk, soul and jazz. When the salsa movement gained momentum in the early 1970s, Palmieri returned to his Latin roots to record Vamonos Pa'l Monte (1971), and the album Eddie Palmieri & Friends in Concert (1971) at the University of Puerto Rico.
Three years later, Palmieri reached the pinnacle of success with his release of The Sun of Latin Music (1974). That year, he won his first Grammy Award, marking the first time that Latin music was recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). He won again the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece (1974).
As salsa's popularity began to wane in New York City during the 80s, Palmieri decided to move to Puerto Rico to care for his ailing mother and be with his brother, who had suffered a heart attack. During the five years he spent there, he formed a band called the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra and recorded several albums including Palo Pa ' Rumba (1984), Solito (1985), and La Verdad (1987), all of which won Grammys. In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution recorded two of Palmieri's performances for their catalog at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Success, however, was bittersweet; on September 12th, 1988, Eddie lost his brother to complications from a heart attack. Charlie was in New York to perform as the musical director of the Joe Cuba Sextet. He died later that day at the Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. He was 60 years old.
Throughout the 90s, Palmieri recorded more than 14 albums. In 1993, the film Carlito's Way, starring Al Pacino, featured Palmieri's single "Muneca." That same year, he was appointed to the board of governors of the New York chapter of the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). In 1994, the track "Puerto Rico" was included in Spike Lee's Crooklyn soundtrack and Palmieri contributed to the HIV/AIDS documentary film, Breaking the Silence.
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