Well over 16 years ago I reviewed a young pianist from the Dominican Republic unknown to New York audiences. He was in an all-star concert at Town Hall and from the downbeat of the first selection I knew I was in for something special. By playing clever rhythm figures in unison with his bassist and drummer (Joel Rosenblatt) and constantly changing time signatures with staccato precision, Michel Camilo instantly transformed the traditional jazz trio spectrum into something much larger. He could fill large concert halls with epic sound rivaling that of a big band. His dynamic latin compositions stunned audiences and his technical wizardry had festival producers competing wildly for his services.
About 8 years later, after conquering the jazz club world and recording scores of well-reviewed CDs, Camilo arranged some of his better known latino pieces for orchestra and stunned an opening night audience at Gotham's S.O.B.'s'" one of the great nights at that venerable venue.
And presently, after more successful tour triumphs, numerous international awards and, most recently, a grammy-winning 2-CD set on Telarc dubbed Live at the Blue Note, Camilo is embarking on a 3 month-42 concert-3 continent tour of Blue Note clubs in New York, Europe, and Japan. Married over 22 years to wife Sandrahis brilliant manager/organizer, Camilo not only sits atop the jazz world but has reached beyond. His latest CD Rhapsody in Blue recorded in Spain with the Barcelona symphony has reviewers buzzing.
The tour of the Blue Note clubs began in Boston earlier this month and, after the present stint here in the Greenwich Village signature Blue Note, Camilo will travel on to Milan and then head to Japan for appearances in Toyko, Osaka and Nagoyathe latest of the Japanese Blue Notes. From its modest beginnings in the early 80's, the Blue Note phenomenon continues to set the set the standard for jazz clubs the world over.
After working with dozens of bandmates through the years in an attempt to elevate the execution of his complex style, Camilo has had the company of bassist Charles Flores and drummer Dafnis Prieto (both from Cuba) for quite awhile. This longevity paid off handsomely last week as the trio soared to new heights in front of an opening night SRO crowd. After warming up the room with some steamy latin jazz favorites, Camilo segued into "Birk's Works to commemorate the influence that Dizzy Gillespie had on him (and so many other musicians) early in his career. A ballad "The Magic in You (from the Telarc grammy-winning CD and dedicated to Sandra) followed and illustrated Camilo's ability to move an audience from wild foot stomping to dreamy contemplation. A multi-tempoed originally phrased "Tequila had everyone foot stomping again preparing them for a cataclysmic "A Night in Tunsia which had everyone standing as they applauded the close of the set.
The jazz world is Camilo's oyster as he continues to soar.
Jose Manuel Horna