Latin sounds are big in Boston jazz clubs this weekend, with Ryles, Scullers, and the Regattabar all bringing in someone in that vein at least one night. But no one is bigger in Latin jazz these days than pianist Eddie Palmieri, the 67-year-old, seven-time Grammy winner whose septet played the second of a three-night engagement Friday night at Scullers.
If Friday night's set was any indication, hot Latin rhythms aren't the only thing Palmieri and company serve up. A fair amount of the set seemed to alternate in mood between stately and pleasantly lugubrious.
Palmieri started things off with "Donatere," a slow, meditative solo piano intro. He was then joined onstage by his stellar trumpeter, Brian Lynch, for a similarly sedate and thoughtful duet on the ballad "Iraida."
The remainder of the band -- Ivan Renta on tenor saxophone, Joe Santiago on electric bass, Jose Claussell on timbales, Johnny Rodriguez on bongos, and George Delgado on congas -- filed out for the third piece, "Bolero Dos," but it too opened with a laid-back keyboard intro and a funky rhythmic line.
Lynch heated things up briefly with some high notes before returning back to earth on his carefully orchestrated solo, and was followed in turn by solos by Renta, Palmieri, and Rodriguez. But things at this point still seemed more cool than hot.
Things heated up a bit on "Don't Stop the Train." The horns, in particular, did some impressive trading and interweaving of lines in places, and blasting out together in others. Palmieri's solo was especially impressive for the way he played almost outside on a Latin underpinning. And Delgado took the first of his two crowd-pleasing solos on congas.
"Grandpa Semi-Tone Blues," up next, was written to put Palmieri's grandchildren through college. Its playful melody launched a bluesy solo by Renta, followed by another hot trumpet solo from Lynch. Delgado came next with his excellence on congas.
Palmieri kept everything in motion all night long standing at his electronic keyboard and supplying a harmonic foundation. On the set's penultimate piece, "Palo Pa Rumba," he led the audience in clapping out a semicomplicated five-count beat to accompany Santiago's bass solo.
The uptempo heat generally associated with Latin jazz didn't kick in fully until after the band had taken a bow and plunged into their customary encore, "Comparsa." As short as it was fiery, the tune wrapped up with Claussell making energetic good work of his cymbal and timbales.
All in all a very enjoyable set, even with the heat kept mostly on simmer.