Michel Camilo in Concert
Starring: Michel Camilo on Piano
(Michel Camilo Website)
With: Charles Flores on Bass, Dafnis Prieto on Drums, Guarionex Aquino on Percussion
In Celebration of Dominican Week in New York
At Alice Tully Hall
(Lincoln Center Website)
In Collaboration with Telarc International
Sponsored by: Banco Popular Dominicano, Dominican Week in NY,
the US, and Puerto Rico, Dominican American Assistance Fund, Inc.,
and Dominican American Chamber of Commerce in NY,
as well numerous additional sponsors.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 29, 2004
Michel Camilo, from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was invited to join the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16. In 1979, he moved to NY and studied at Mannes College and Juilliard, and, in 1985, he was already performing at Carnegie Hall and touring Europe with his trio. He has performed at Avery Fisher Hall, the Blue Note, Kennedy Center, Radio City Music Hall, and the White House. He has a featured role in Calle 54, a film about Latin Jazz. Michel Camilo won a Grammy this year for Live at the Blue Note and was pronounced Jazz Week’s Artist of the Year. (Program Notes)
Michel Camilo is one of the most exciting Latin Jazz and contemporary pianists I have ever heard. He is charismatic, creative, and eclectic. He allows his bassist, drummer, and percussionist featured riffs, during potent and powerful Latin mambos or fused Jazz/Contemporary/Latin/Classical compositions. There were danceable (Salsa/Mambo/Swing) pieces, original compositions, tributes to Camilo’s wife, Sandra, and to Mongo Santa Maria, and an array of surprises. This evening’s concert performance, with a packed Tully Hall, was seamlessly performed for two hours with no intermission.
Camilo was rarely heard in solo form, as his Latin percussionist at the opposite stage corner used natural wooden instruments to enhance the theme and to infuse clave rhythm into Camilo’s arrangements and compositions. The concert began with Guarionex Aquino’s whistles, bells, and soft, sensual sounds, almost jungle tones, that lent atmospheric effects to Camilo’s piano. A mesmerizing mambo beat was introduced early here. Calle 54, title song from the film, in which Camilo appeared, had a stylized jazz undertone and undulating rhythm. I could mentally hear this piece at the Copacabana. Congas, bongos, and bass combined Cuban rhythms to Camilo’s vibrant keyboard performance.
A tribute to Mongo Santa Maria, Mongo’s Blues, pulsated with a driven mambo beat, as Camilo’s piano cut suddenly to Aquino’s bongos. A swing rhythm emerged in the next work, featuring Charles Flores’ bass and Dafnis Prieto’s drums. These were outsized sounds. Next, we were treated to a sultry rhumba, which almost mimicked a tango, as the piano had the soulful sensation of the bandoneón. Flores, on bass, took a solo turn, offering the sexy, swerving rhumba an engaging enhancement, for this appreciative and attentive audience. Just as we were led into romantic rhumba, we were then thrown into red hot, New Orleans swing, with an aerobic rhythm on piano and a resounding bass.
Included in this rare concert were delicious duets, such as bongos and piano, merging into long, dreamy riffs, including Prieto’s drum solos that brought him huge accolades for his straight-ahead, jazz approach. Camilo, however, was tonight’s sensational star, and he seized the length of the keyboard with aplomb and agility. His lightning trills across the keys were effortless. Yet, Camilo, throughout the evening, allowed his three accompanists to showcase their skills with serendipitous sound. Imagining You, a tribute to Camilo’s wife, Sandra, with consistent piano lead, dripped in melancholy and romance. There were whispering effects and ornamental flourishes.
A dynamic mambo soon followed with Prieto’s endless drum solo, sandwiched between a fusion of Latin clave and straight-ahead jazz, and Tully Hall rocked. As a finale, the wildest of mambos, with charged solo congas, brought the audience to its feet. The encore, a solo for Camilo, alone onstage, was moody, melodic, and mellifluous. Check the Michel Camilo Website for the next engagement on your travel schedule. He is not to be missed. Kudos to Michel Camilo and his Trio for one powerful musical performance.