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Michel Camilo: Mano A Mano

Larry Taylor By

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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.

Mano a Mano consists of seven Camilo originals and three standards. The opener, "Yes," sets the pattern with rapid-fire exchanges between Camilo and Hidalgo. Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" gives Camilo a chance to show off his Latin funk, while on the original "Then and Now," a moody arco bass introduction leads to quiet, reflective group interchange.

The title track rushes forward with echoes of Duke Ellington's "Caravan." Both bass and drums guide Camilo through, balancing the load, closing with a percussion solo, effectively pitched to a high key. The lyrical "You and Me" is framed in subtle samba choro syncopation, popular from early Brazilian music; again it shows off Hidalgo's melodic conga work. "Rice and Beans" features an infectious meringue rhythm in good-time, two-step dance style. Two standards follow, a haunting version of John Coltrane's "Naima," and a reworking of the flowery melody of "Alfonsina y El Mar," a classic from the Latin songbook. The showpiece, though, is "Rumba Pa' Ti," a swirling jazz take on the rumba. Starting slowly, Camilo gradually unleashes his dazzling style, with the drums following suit, building to an explosive finale and fitting conclusion to Mano a Mano.

Track Listing: Yes; The Sidewinder; Then and Now; Mano a Mano; You and Me; Rice and Beans; Naima; No Left Turn; Alfonsina y El Mar; Rumba Pa' Tí.

Personnel: Michel Camilo: piano; Charles Flores: bass; Giovanni Hidalgo: Latin percussion.

Title: Mano A Mano | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: EmArcy

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