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Michel Camilo: Live In London

Dan Bilawsky By

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While he may be best known for fronting dynamic trios, piano titan Michel Camilo does just fine by himself. There's tremendous propulsion, clarity, and strength in play when Camilo takes to the bench, and there's truly no place better to hear that than in a solo setting.

Camilo has explored this format on record before—first on Solo (Telarc, 2005), later on What's Up? (Okeh, 2013)—but those efforts spoke to his work in the studio. Live In London was captured on the stage, making it Camilo's first live solo record. In many respects, the distinction is unimportant. His dazzling technique, complete with Art Tatum-esque flourishes, classical allusions, and Latin jazz flair, rarely differs from album to album or place to place. And his directional compass typically points to the same realms. The real difference that's noticeable here is in how Camilo responds to the moment and, subsequently, how the music blooms. His pianistic proficiency on all three albums is incontestable—let's face it, the man's chops are out of this world—but the level of passion he projects on this one completely trumps what he brought to those aforementioned dates.

Those in attendance for this performance at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in June of 2015 were given a real treat, as Camilo clearly wasted no time getting down to business. "From Within," where rhapsodizing quickly gives way to fervent thoughts, kicks off the show, serving as a springboard into the pianist's world. Then Camilo provides a quick detour to another time and place on "The Frim Fram Sauce" before returning to his own oeuvre with a glowing and dazzling "A Place In Time." Two more originals follow, offering contrast in tempo and tone. "Island Beat," a dance-friendly Cuban treat with a montuno foundation, and "Sandra's Serenade," built on contemplative ground, couldn't be more different. Yet both speak directly to the artist's state of mind and artistic outlook.

To wrap things up, Camilo gives the audience some crowd-pleasers with substance and power. "Manteca" is a tour de force, grooving over its insistent bass line, darting here and there, pouncing, sprinting, and even taking a brief trip to a Harlem rent party; and the album-ending medley—a sweat-inducing trip through "I Got Rhythm," "Caravan," and "Sing Sing Sing"—plays as vaudeville and pure virtuosity rolled into one entertaining package. Michel Camilo's been operating on this high a level for decades, but he consistently remains something to marvel at.

Track Listing: From Within; The Frim Fram Sauce; A Place In Time; Island Beat; Sandra's Serenade; Manteca; I Got Rhythm/Caravan/Sing Sing Sing.

Personnel: Michel Camilo: piano

Title: Live In London | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Redondo Music

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