Michel Camilo with Charles Flores and Cliff Almond - The Blue Note: 2010

Michel Camilo

 

The Blue Note, April 20, 2010:

 

       Kathy and I travel into downtown Manhattan on a spectacular spring evening. We are so thrilled to attend Michel Camilo’s opening night at The Blue Note jazz club. Michel Camilo, with Charles Flores and Cliff Almond will headline the famous jazz venue for six evenings through Sunday April 25th.  With so many of our friends joining us, led by Chris La Rosa, we require two full tables to accommodate everyone. I am on the press list+1 tonight thanks again to The Blue Note publicist, Jonathan Kantor. We see Charles Flores before the show and embrace a huge hello. He poses graciously with Kathy for our first photo opportunity.

    

Kathy and Charles Flores

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Michel, Charles and Cliff take the stage at exactly 8:00 P.M. Michel’s melodic and expressive piano intro flows effervescently, “From Within.” Michel quickly performs arpeggios and flourishes with graceful ease and eloquence; dynamic musical expression articulates, as the trio joins in concise melodic phrasing. These talented and erudite musicians are ‘on’ immediately. Charles Flores bass creates a captive ambiance of warmth as he develops an elegant mellifluous mood. He effortlessly embraces us in an expressive crescendo that builds in melodic percussive intensity. A cut-time passage with strong Latin emphasis captivates us as Charles passionate bass solo showcases exquisite double-time note selection. Charles plucks and slaps his upright bass expressively. Cliff Almond wastes no time in grabbing our attention with a spectacular syncopated drum solo that features timely and tasteful percussion execution.

       “My Secret Place” is dedicated to George Wein. The musical presentation begins slow, sincere, delicate and dreamy. It evokes meaningful passion and sincere reverence in its diligent and delicious musical delivery. As the composition evolves, the musical disposition is tastefully dotted with ardent crescendos and fiendishly fast arpeggios. The musical mood remains regal and gracious. Charles bass notes are selective but deeply deliberate with well chosen rests for melodic emphasis. Cliff cleverly uses brushes for a delicate and tasteful percussive presentation that is adeptly restrained. Michel hums as he annunciates the melodic phrasing he is simultaneously performing on the keyboard. Charles passionate facial expressions enhance the skillful and discerning bass lines. Michel and Cliff execute a superior answer/response passage that is captivating in its delicate dynamic control. Cliff plays ingenious percussive figures while Michel answers with swift melodic arpeggios exuding complete expressive command to create an eloquently pristine musical pallet.

       “Repercussions” creates the ‘wow’ effect of exciting anticipation with Michel’s infectious smile; combining his piano with Cliff’s drums that spontaneously create a magical mood of musical mayhem. The arrangement is lively, joyful and upbeat as Michel’s hands and fingers blur; this is brilliant performance execution. Michel’s piano performance proficiency can barely be described linguistically. Cliff Almond effortlessly displays complete polyrhythmic abilities with excellent stick control, utilizing forceful and well conceived accents; complemented by occasional ‘rock’ heaviness that is exciting and refreshing. He executes double-time rolls on the tom toms and cymbals with incredible ease.

    

Michel Camilo

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       “Piece of Cake” lifts the audience with a distinctive Latin melody and rhythm. The effective dynamic contrasts are subtle, poised and succinct. The deliciously sweet phrasing is clear and coherent. The musical presentation is hypnotic as Michel embellishes the melody with creative crescendos and brilliant fiery arpeggios. Michel’s strong left hand accents precede the right hand into a blurring frenzy of creative musical expression. Michel’s miraculous dexterity enables him to execute percussive melodic hand rolls, on keyboard, like no one else in the world. A cut-time ‘rock’ flavored stomp creates rhythmic contrast; then suddenly, softly and delicately, a reserved resolution that articulates true expressive passion. The musical groove is brutally fierce at times.

       An Argentinean ballad “Alfonsina” focuses on the love of a beautiful woman. The arrangement is delicate, restrained and mysterious. The serene execution, in a minor key, is melancholy and reflective. Charles fully complements the musical mood with superior note selection that showcases his creative compassion for sound and dynamic effect. Cliff Almond is extremely succinct and ‘tappy’ in his percussive musical interpretation. The trio blends effortlessly in a well-stated romantic musical rendezvous. For a uniquely brief moment, we are privileged to observe Michel sitting at the piano witnessing the wonderfully creative chemistry of Charles and Cliff. Michel just watches, with his hands clasped and eyes wide; and a smile that says it all. Cliff delicately plays his drum set with multi-rod sticks. He displays exacting time and a dynamic control that only the great drummers can perform so effortlessly.

    

Michel Camilo

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       The next composition “Birk's Works” is a kind of hop & bop. The melodic approach is dissonant and percussive as Michel hums and moans his melodic expression. The swing groove is strong and kind of ‘swazzay.’ The trio is in full stride as Michel sizzles his creative musical spirit; marvelously expressive dynamic phrasing complements succinct rhythmic stops and dynamic bursts. Cliff is playing with incredible ease, featuring smooth polyrhythmic figures and brilliant syncopated control.

       “On Fire” begins with fiery piano arpeggios that are strong and fierce and quickly reach blurring speed. Michel’s percussive two-hand rolls are filled with accents that are played with an unnatural ease. Cliff cleverly complements with a tight snare drum routine. Charles bass is prodding, gutsy and concise. There is a playful interaction between piano and bass, with rhythmic accents and well-timed rests, combined with chord melodies that are utterly amazing. Cliff is completely undeterred with intense and skillful polyrhythmic accents and exciting double time percussive frenzy.

    

Charles Flores

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Kathy and I visit Michel and Sandra in the green room in-between shows. The warmth and joy of inspirational musical performance glows in everyone!

    

A.J., Michel & Sandra

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

    

Charles Flores & Cliff Almond

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       “Tropical Jam” kicks off the SECOND SET. Michel presents succinctly clear left hand accents that lead his right hand arpeggios. The music is cheerfully upbeat, carefree and resolute. The melodic development dictates sharp accents and seamless dynamic control. The trio’s blended accompaniment jells to facilitate a warmth of genuine musical communication. Cliff Almond is in the sweet spot, as Charles emanates confidence and pride. Michel and Cliff play an inventive answer/response passage that clearly motivates each other to new and spontaneous heights of performance prowess.

       Michel Camilo reminds the audience that April is jazz appreciation month; the composition “Reflections” follows. The music is slow, deliberate and in a minor key. The emotional message is insightful and somber. The melody line is eloquently regal with Cliff caressing the musical development with a brush and a reverse stick. Charles ‘fattens’ the sound with long sustain notes. The trio demonstrates superior dynamic control playing slow then quick flourishes of passionate musical expression. Michel moans expressively to accompany his strong left hand and explosive right hand arpeggios. The musical pallet is imaginative in differentiating alacritous two hand rolls alongside passionate, somber and restrained melody lines.

     “Poinciana” is wonderfully colorful, in a swing style that is very ‘loosey-goosey’ in presentation. A concise and well defined right hand permeates this creative arrangement. The music is articulate, touching, fervent and sincere.

       The next composition “Crossroads” begins with a fierce melodic attack. The musical development is masterfully percussive. Charles bass is frenzied, powerful and seemingly possessed. A creative dynamic change leads to a stop and extended emphatic pause that resolves back to musical frenzy. Cliff demonstrates superior percussive control with exceptional double-time to cut-time rhythmic passages that feature a heavy handed flavor that is ‘rock’ like in its presentation.

       “A Place in Time” is full of mystery in a transcendent and imaginative presentation. Cliff is delicate and sensitive in his proficient brush control. Charles ties it all together with pertinent, protracted bass notes. The musical mood is sincerely passionate, perceptive and restrained.

       “A Night in Tunisia” has the familiar melody line complemented by fierce musical development. Cliff demonstrates insightful and responsive accents. Charles takes a mesmerizing and intense solo over the potent musical backdrop. Cliff culminates this outstanding song with a flashy, awestruck drum solo that showcases his incredible stick control and percussive imagination. Cliff can easily shift from a feather-light touch to intensely complex drum rolls that clearly showcase his incredible chops.

    

Cliff Almond and Chris La Rosa

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Michel Camilo, Charles Flores and Cliff Almond amaze and utterly thrill The Blue Note audience. We have gathered a total of fourteen music lovers who all exclaim: “this performance is phenomenal, amazing and without compare.” The Michel Camilo Trio continues to reach musically creative heights that are without peer in the realm of jazz performance and musical creativity. Oh yes, yes, YES!!

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A.J. Alfaro

and.the.beat.goes.on@att.net