If you've never enjoyed Palmieri's acquaintance, Sueño will serve as an auspicious introduction. The Spanish Harlem-born pianist is known primarily as a salsa artist, noted for such steamy Latino grooves as the one on this album's "Azucar." But Palmieri is never content to just toss his salsa in a Crockpot and let it simmer. In the middle of this song, he launches into an extended solo that takes apart and reconstructs both the melody and the rhythm. The effect is like hearing salsa king Machito's big band with Chick Corea sitting in as guest soloist.
"Variations on a Given Theme" and "Verdict on Judge Street" show off Palmieri working unaccompanied in a lyrical, avant-garde vein. He can also leave well enough alone. On "Just a Little Dream," he hammers away at a mincing refrain while violinist Shiro Sadamura and other band members soar away overhead. Okay, he gets a bit carried away on the gaudy "Humpty Dumpty." Some little voice should have warned Palmieri that recasting a nursery rhyme as a mambo wasn't such a hot idea. After all, if Sueño teaches us anything, it's that Palmieri's little voice is usually unerringly correct. (Intuition/Capitol)