For Carl Palmer, the Emerson Lake and Palmer model continues to resonate: ‘I’ll take a trio every day’

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There’s a reason, Carl Palmer says, that he came to fame in the trio of Emerson Lake and Palmer: That format allows the space to showcase the drums. Conversely, there’s also no place to hide.

“For me, there’s no hiding in the trio,” Palmer tells Modern Drummer. “The trio is what you get: You hear it, it’s done. You can’t cover for anyone. No one can slack off. You’re as good as the worst man — and that’s the game.”

Some three years after Emerson Lake and Palmer’s most recent performance, Palmer has returned to a trio format with his ELP Legacy band, featuring Paul Bielatowicz and Simon Fitzpatrick. Previous to Emerson Lake and Palmer, he was also in a trio-plus-singer combo as part of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

The lone hold out has been Asia, a four-piece that Palmer has worked with off and on since the early 1980s. Most recently, they issued the anniversary project XXX last year.

“Yes, I like big bands and all of that,” Palmer says. “But if you said to me: ‘What do you want to play in?,’ I’ll take a trio every day of the week. I’m selfish — because in a trio, there’s a lot of space for drums!”

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