Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
You couldn't really blame Eddie Palmieri and Mongo Santamaria for not wanting to go on with the show. Monday night's sudden downpour, which came just as their performance at the Carter Barron Amphitheater was scheduled to begin, didn't exactly encourage people to spend the evening out of doors, and neither did it have a salutary effect on an electrical sound system and various wooden musical instruments.
But since, in the words of master of ceremonies Hector Corporan, the evening marked "the first major Latin music concert ever held in Washington," the show eventually got under way - an hour and a half late and then only with the reluctant acquiescence of the artists. The crowd was small but enthusiastics, so much so that they didn't even let Corcoran finish his prepared remarks.
What he would have said - and what Palmieri proved when he eventually arrived - was that his veteran of the Tito Rodriguez band is one of the premier figures of salsa, as Latin dance music is known these days. Winner of the first Grammy award in Latin music and recently reported to have signed a contract with Columbia Records for a total of more than $1 million, Palmieri is perhaps Latin music's strongest hope to cross over to the black and white English - speaking pop audience.
That is mostly because of the jazz influence he has accumulated and added on to his strong Latin base. At times when other salsa pianists would be inclined to play a simple montuno, the two - or three - chord pattern over which the rest of the orchestra improvises, Palmieri often unleashes lenghty model fugues in the style of McCoy Tyner.
The all star orchestra Palmieri has assembled includes some Anglo jazz players in its horn section, but the star soloists Monday night were two imported musicians. Mexican trumpet player Leo "Cuchillo" Muniz has a sharp cutting tone, and reaches extremely high notes with astonishing ease; veteran conga player Francisco Aguabella, who has played both with some of the leading Latin orchestras of the '50s and the jazz - rock group Weather Report, supplied the rhythmic drive that is an essential part of all good salsa.