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!), initially influenced by jazz traditionalists like Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. By the early '60s, though, 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.
Dominican-born Michel Camilo, meanwhile, is some 20 years younger, and first gained real stardom in the mid-'80s, after he played 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.
Finally 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 the age of 20, he was accepted to play in the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. There, he met Quincy Jones, who continued to watch his career until, three years later, he was able to defect 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, for whom Rodriguez represents a new hope.
Jazz Roots: Piano Latino. With Eddie Palmieri, Michel Camilo, and Alfredo Rodriguez. 8 p.m. Friday, April 16. The Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $45 to $125; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org