This Friday's Piano Latino concert at the Arsht Center brings together two masters of Latin jazz with an upcoming prodigy, for a snapshot of the genre's past, present, and future. Eddie Palmieri is the grand master here, a first-generation Nuyorican who began playing piano at age 11 all the way back in 1947. He was initially influenced by jazz traditionalists such as Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner, but by the early '60s, he was swept up in a string of Latin dance crazes, starting with his charanga outfit, Conjunto La Perfecta. The group's use of a trombone-heavy sound later became a heavy influence on salsa greats like Willie Colon, and Palmieri's continuing musical innovation has loomed large, marked by a total of nine Grammys throughout his career.
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Dominican-born Michel Camilo, meanwhile, is some 20 years younger. He first gained real stardom in the mid-'80s after playing Carnegie Hall. His sound is slightly more classical than Palmieri's, but also incorporates strong bop influences and of course, a bit of Latin swing. Last on the bill is Alfredo Rodriguez, a Cuban-born 23-year-old for whom this concert is a coming-out of sorts. Though he trained at a classical conservatory in Havana, his talent went underappreciated until 2006, when, at age 20, he was accepted to play in the Montreux Jazz Festival. There, he met Quincy Jones, who continued to watch his career until, three years later, the younger man defected to the United States. He left behind a girlfriend and his entire family, but has gained a new support system in Jones and the international jazz community.