Tap dance virtuoso Savion Glover and jazz legend Eddie Palmieri team up Tuesday night in Vail
July 26, 2010
VAIL – Have you ever attended a concert where a group of musicians who have never played together, or for that matter, might not even know each other, hit the stage and begin to jam and, at once, everything works? It’s magical. You can see by the look in their eyes, and their body language that they are in another place. They’re just groovin’ and playin’ and in a “space” that makes you envious.
And you think, boy I wish I could do that.
That “space” is where you may find musicians Savion Glover and Eddie Palmieri when they perform Tuesday night at the opening night for the Vail International Dance Festival.
But Glover is a dancer, you argue. Actually, he’s the conduit for the sound that emotes from his shoes. And they become an instrument, while Glover is the musician. Softly, they’re a violin. Feverishly, they are a set of drums.
And tonight Glover’s shoes will groove to the rhythms of Palmieri’s salsa and Latin Jazz interpretations.
“Savion and I didn’t know each other until we met at the Blue Note in Manhattan last year,” said Palmieri, a nine-time Grammy winner. “A group of musicians were invited to jam and we got together. What a great night. Savion is such an enormous talent.”
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A trained classical pianist, Palimieri formed his own band, “Conjunto La Perfecta,” in 1961. The band featured a trombone section rather than trumpets, something new in Latin music and set the stage for Palmieri’s unconventional means of orchestration. In fact, it was known as “the band with the crazy roaring elephants” due to its compelling sound and distinguished by the contributions of noted trombonist, Barry Rogers.
“Cuban music provides the fundamentals from which I never move,” Palmieri said. “Whatever has to be built must be built from there. It’s that cross-cultural effect that makes magnificent music.”
And it’s this Latin beat that will drive Glover’s performance.
“I allow my music to be what it is,” Palmieri said. “Whatever sound or ride it might be.”
Dubbed by the late Gregory Hines, one of tap’s forefathers, as “one of the greatest tap dancer that ever lived,” Glover has been performing since age 10, when he made his debut in “The Tap Dance Kid.” In 1996 he won the Tony Award for his dancing and choreography of the Broadway smash hit, “Bring in Da Noize, Bring in Da Funk.”
“Basically my style of tap dancing, hoofing, is like a musician,” Glover said. “We approach it like a musician approaches a live set. If they don’t have sheet music in front of them, they’re going to play what they feel at the time. And that’s what we do as tap dancers. We play it as we feel it at the time.”
Indeed, Palmieri and Glover are both resolute about their individual style of music.
“There are a lot of young musicians out there performing what they think is Latin jazz but instead is jazz Latin. And there’s a difference,” Palmieri explained. “They’re not playing in the truest sense of the music. They work as a small combo with a piano, drums and maybe a congaree (percussionist). But those bands that are into what is really Latin jazz are much larger groups with reeds, brass and a full rhythm section with several percussionists. My mission is to keep Latin jazz alive.”
Glover, too, is dedicated to keeping his music alive and helping people recognize that tap is essentially music.
As Glover once told Debra Craine of the London times, his style is “not the show business stuff like ‘Tap Dogs’ or ‘Riverdance’ that young tap dancers see, but rather the pure art form of tap.”
These shows, Glover said, are not tap dancing.
“They may be wearing tap shoes, but once you start to add other elements on to tap, once you start doing gymnastics with tap shoes, that’s not tap dancing anymore,” he said.
Glover and Palmieri are so seasoned, so relaxed in their performances that it’s hard to believe that either one is emoting so much energy. They’re both in their own space. And that’s the beauty of these two musicians. Somehow they take you with them.
Let the magic begin.
Brenda Himelfarb is a freelance writer based in Eagle-Vail. E-mail comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.