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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: What's Up

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Jazz piano virtuoso Michel Camilo is known for his bombastic technique. For example, after a set at the Monterey Jazz Festival a couple of years ago, I stuck around and talked to the piano-tuner hired to rejuvenate the strings. He stood shaking his head in dismay after Camilo's hard driving workout, which had been a crowd-pleaser. Camilo's What's Up takes, however, a different approach. This is his second solo effort in his nearly 30-year career, his first being Solo (Telarc, 2005). Over the years, Camilo has recorded in most contexts: duets, trios, big bands. Solo, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Mano A Mano

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With Mano A Mano, Michel Camilo goes hands-to-hands in spirited exchange with conguero Giovanni Hidalgo, surely hearkening back to the pianist's Dominican/Afro-Cuban roots. This approach results in the great pianist tempering his style. His flamboyant virtuosity is mostly restrained; here, he is more subdued than bombastic. His playing, though, is just as effective, but in a different way. Camilo points out in press notes that Hidalgo plays up to six tuned congas on the CD, resulting in enhanced rhythmic, melodic and harmonic qualities. Rounding out the trio is Charles Flores, a major contributor on bass.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment

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Native of the Dominican Republic, Michel Camilo has forged a highly personal approach to piano composition and performance. His playing is refreshingly devoid of the hypersensitive impressionism practice performed in the wake of Bill Evans and that pianist's acolytes. Camilo's style is strapping and powerful but can encompass gentleness and introspection, just not too much. Camilo is well documented electronically with releases on Telarc including Rhapsody in Blue (2006), Solo (2005), and Live at the Blue Note (2004).

Camilo continues his trio line of thinking with The Spirit of the Moment where he leads a superb trio consisting ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment

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Although he was born in the Dominican Republic and has won Latin Grammy awards, it would be inaccurate to lump pianist Michel Camilo into the catch-all category of Latin jazz. Sure, his roots are in Latin music and he imbues much of his playing with Afro-Caribbean beats, but he's best described as a jazz artist. Period. And, as his eclectic Spirit of the Moment shows, he can play just about any kind of jazz as well as anyone out there. Camilo divides the album into three distinct sections, each consisting of four tunes. The opening section features ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo & Tomatito: Spain Again

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Almost seven years have passed since Michel Camilo and Tomatito came together to record the multi-award-winning album Spain (Verve, 2000). That recording placed these outstanding musicians in the rarefied company of those who have successfully joined piano and guitar in a duo context and produced music of rare beauty: Bill Evans and Jim Hall in the world of jazz, Horacio Salgan and Ubaldo de Lio in the world of tango, and more recently, Pamela and Robert Trent in the classical world. It is not an especially long list. The formula that worked so well seven years ago, a blend of ...

NEW YORK BEAT

Michel Camilo on a Blue Note Tour

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Rhapsody in Blue

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The crystal clear articulation with which Michel Camilo interprets “Rhapsody in Blue comes naturally. He was a child prodigy, after all, who joined the National Symphony of the Dominican Republic at age sixteen. Here, with the 95-piece Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, he resurrects George Gershwin's landmark composition with its jazz inflection and significant orchestral jazz textures. Camilo's grand piano weaves a silver thread through the piece, summoning up the deep feeling that comes ingrained in the composition. Without those emotional overtones, the piece would not have had such an impact on us during the Jazz Age.

Written just one year after ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Rhapsody in Blue

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As we settle into the new century, Gunther Schuller's Third Stream concept remains alive and well. Another example of this jazz/classical crossover is Rhapsody in Blue, where Michel Camilo plays “classical" George Gershwin with the Barcelona Symphony. It's a terrific CD, but is it jazz?

You bet. For one thing, Gershwin was basically a jazz guy, responsible for any number of enduring standards, and the jazzy elements of his writing are inescapable. For another, although Camilo was “playing the ink" that Gershwin wrote--i.e., following the notes--he “tried to make it sound improvised." And it does: his original sculptings of time ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Solo

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Michel Camilo's last recording, Live at the Blue Note, won a Best Latin Jazz Grammy® in 2003. His followup is a solo offering that fairly surveys his various influences and interests, including Camilo's Latin-tinged, impressionistic original compositions; the music of Brazil, particularly that of Jobim; and the Great American Songbook.

This disc is reminiscent of McCoy Tyner's 1990s solo recordings. Michel Camilo has an expansive palette comparable to Tyner's with an infinitely more acute Latin sensibility. He readily combines his expertise in Brazilian and Caribbean music with the Great American Songbook, and both influences guide Camilo's own composition.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Solo

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Piano virtuoso Michel Camilo has plied his trade in various settings--trios mostly, but in duos and big bands as well--so the time must have seemed right for him to put out a solo work which, while not necessarily completing his discography, would certainly deepen it. Solo , a diverse blend of originals and standards, bears Camilo's unmistakable stamp and is a welcome addition to his already impressive oeuvre. Camilo introduces the listener to his fluid technique with his composition “A Dream," where he shifts gracefully between major and minor chords. “Minha (All Mine)," a Bill Evans favorite, is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Solo

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You get the truest measure of a pianist when s/he plays alone, completely responsible for keeping time and the listener's interest; it's the most personal, revealing canvas of all. On Solo, Michel Camilo's vibrant colors appear in new shadings, reflecting this uniquely intimate setting.

The Grammy-winning pianist's first solo album is designed as a trilogy: equal parts Brazilian tunes, jazz standards, and Camilo originals, it represents for him “the three worlds that are closest to my heart." Heartfelt is definitely a common denominator here, whether it's in the meditative “A Dream," the stride-flavored “Our Love is Here to ...

NITE & DISK

Thunder in the Hall: Michel Camilo at Lincoln Center

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Michel Camilo's Grammy-winning Live at the Blue Note has already been thoughtfully reviewed by two of my AAJ colleagues ( Franz Matzner and Joel Roberts ). Both of them note Camilo's virtuosity and classical roots, using words like “dazzling" and “astound[ing]" to describe his performance. In concert, all of this applies, with added dimensions of personal warmth and visible energy, as well as material that did not appear on the CD.

On September 29, 2004, this included the opening number, an improvised duet between Camilo and his percussionist/compatriot Guarionex Aquino, who conjured the promise of a hot tropical ...

INTERVIEWS

Michel Camilo: Pianist for a Golden Era

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Michel Camilo has emerged over the last decade or so as one of the virtuoso piano players of jazz, amassing a strong and loyal following. He's classically trained, with monstrous technique and a fertile musical imagination. Naturally, because he hails from the Dominican Republic, his playing is tinged with Latin elements. It may be that the jazz world has another virtuoso to thank for Camilo choosing jazz over other musical pursuits -- the legendary Art Tatum. “The first time I heard jazz was when I was 14 and a half. I heard the great Art Tatum on the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michel Camilo: Live at the Blue Note

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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 ...



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