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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Michel Camilo

Live at the Blue Note

TELARC 2CD-83574


Disc One

    1. Cocowalk
    2. Two of a Kind
    3. Hello & Goodbye
    4. The Magic in You
    5. Tequila
    6. Dichotomy
    7. Twilight Glow
    8. Happy birthday/Blue Bossa
    9. This Way Out

Disc Two

    1. On the Other hand
    2. Mongo’s Blues
    3. Thinking of You
    4. At Night9To Frank)
    5. Why Not!
    6. Silent Talk
    7. See You Later
    8. And Sammy walked In
    9. On Fire

Michel Camilo – piano

Charles Flores – bass

Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez – drums

The recording was made live at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York in March of 2003.

The trio has unbounding energy, Camilo hails from the Dominican Republic and the other two are from Cuba. Together they reflect all that is jazz in the USA plus everything that is Latin from the Caribbean. The instrumental virtuosity of all three is amazing and the audience reaction one of excitement and pleasure.

In the sleeve notes Michel Camilo says "There’s a very high level of communication, and at the same time, a very high level of risk in all the improvisational moments. And there’s always that question of ‘How are we going to get out of this one?’ There are really moments like that in there, and I’m so glad they were captured for posterity."

Michel has been recording for about 20 years now, but this is his first live recording and his first with his current Cuban bass player and drummer. Although Hernandez been with him for some time, Flores had only joined some four months before this recording.

Quite a lot of the material is new to the group and most of it original from the pen of Camilo. He is not shy of putting in a few standards like a new version of ‘Tequila’ and Kenny Dorham’s ‘Blue Bossa’.

The album gets off to a cracking start with Cocowalk, which is an all action work out for the whole band.

Camilo is well known as a composer and many other artists use his compositions, Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D’Rivera and Manhattan Transfer have all featured his works.

A month after this recording Camilo was appointed Herb Alpert Visiting Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston and on the basis of this album alone he richly deserves that appointment.

Michel is classically trained, which accounts for his magnificent keyboard skills. He studied for 13 years at the National Conservatory in Santo Domingo, before moving to New York to study at Mannes and Juilliard School School of Music. He is also in demand as both Conductor and Pianist in the classical world.

The music (all 2 hours, 15minutes of it) is intense and at the same time refreshing, Blue Bossa is taken at a faster than usual tempo, as a piano solo, where he demonstrates phenomenal technique and invention.

Disc One is completed by This Way Out which starts with drummer/percussionist Horacio "EL Negro" Hernandez demonstrating his extraordinary skills before he is joined by the other members of the trio on a number that really cooks along from start to finish. Charles Flores amply demonstrates the reason for his inclusion in the band with an excellent up-tempo solo.

The Second Record starts right into where the first one left off with a calypso called On the Other Hand, as you would expect two Cubans and a man from the Dominican republic know all about these kind of rhythms. This is however an essentially jazz performance and a couple of quotes from ‘Well You Needn’t remind us of that should we forget it!

The playing of Michel Camilo is probably even more complicated than that of McCoy Tyner, but I find him much the most interesting of the two to listen to, his compositions have melodic as well as rhythmic content and his improvisations however advanced seem to me to have more structure. His technique is faultless and he has that wonderful touch on the instrument that you only hear from the best. At Night is a particularly good track which starts with Camilo in solo mood and then moves into a bossa tempo and then on to a funky rock. The solo piano introductions were also a feature of Errol Garners playing, but the general styles of the two pianists are a long way apart. See you Later was commissioned by and first performed at the 2002 San Francisco Jazz festival.

I was not familiar with the playing of Michel Camilo before hearing this record and I intend to play it frequently over the next few months, to try to get more inside it. There is no doubt in my mind already, he is a great jazz talent and as often happens, the live performance is ideal to hear most jazz performers at their best. The recording quality is first class.


Don Mather


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