It's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer virtuosity Michel Camilo displays at the piano. His level of playing is so high, his technique so flawless, his musical vocabulary so broad, that you can lose sight of what truly sets him apart from the pack of simply proficient pianists; namely his ability to transcend mere notes to convey real emotion.
Although he's ventured into classical, world beat and film music in the past, Camilo is a jazz artist at heart. On his new two-disc Telarc release, recorded live during a six-night run at the Blue Note last year, the Dominican-born pianist is joined by a first-rate Cuban rhythm section of Charles Flores on bass and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez on drums. Together, they stretch out on a set of mostly Camilo originals (plus Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa" and a clever take on the '50s Latin rock standard "Tequila") that clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes; but the energy and momentum of the recording rarely sags, save for a few too many ballads bunched together at the top of the first disc.
Camilo, who performed at last month's IAJE Conference, is at his most dazzling on the up-tempo numbers, like "On the Other Hand," "In Walked Sammy," "This Way Out," and the aptly titled "On Fire," which combine Latin jazz, bebop, blues and funk ingredients into a tasty organic stew. His artistry also shines on the slower tunes, like "Twilight Glow" and "Thinking of You," where his classical sensibilities come to the fore. Taken as a whole, Camilo and company have made what is easily one of the best piano trio albums to come along in a while.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Track Listing: 1. Cocowalk (Camilo) - 6:12
2. Two of a Kind (Camilo) - 6:53
3. Hello & Goodbye (Camilo) - 8:42
4. The Magic in You (Camilo) - 9:02
5. Tequila (Rio) - 4:50
6. Dichotomy (Camilo) - 7:58
7. Twilight Glow (Camilo) - 8:43
8. Happy Birthday/Blue Bossa (Dorham/Hill/Hill) - 3:53
9. This Way Out (Camilo) - 10:56
10. On the Other Hand (Camilo) - 6:42
11. Mongo's Blues (Camilo) - 6:52
12. Thinking of You (Camilo) - 9:09
13. At Night (To Frank) (Camilo) - 6:14
14. Why Not! (Camilo) - 8:26
15. Silent Talk (Camilo) - 6:29
16. See You Later (Camilo) - 6:22
17. And Sammy Walked In (Camilo) - 6:35
18. On Fire (Camilo) - 13:02