Michel Camilo Trio
The Blue Note, April 30, 2013:
The Michel Camilo Trio triumphantly returns to The Blue Note in New York City for their Spring 2013 six-day residency. The trio’s current roster is: Cliff Almond on drums and Lincoln Goines on the stand-up bass. Michel Camilo’s biggest fan, Chris LaRosa, and I travel together for opening night. The mood is electric as Michel continues his torrid ‘live’ performances with true creative abandon. Roy and Robyn, enthusiastic first-timers from the Netherlands, and Bill and Georgia who have been here many times before, join us at table six.
Michel, Cliff and Lincoln take the stage at 8:10 PM.; to extremely enthusiastic cheers and applause. Michel Camilo begins with an up-tempo piano solo that cleverly weaves and pulsates through imaginative melodic expansion. This quick warm-up leads into “Yes.” The musical tone is staccato and enthusiastic as the melodious embers flare-up and crackle in the Camilo windstorm. The creative offering contains unison piano and staccato reverse stick on Cliff’s snare drum for a super punchy presentation. Lincoln’s bass notes are full and selective. Cliff’s percussive restraint is especially thoughtful and displays distinctively tasteful cymbal control. Michel quickly executes his signature double-hand rolls that are ferocious and passionate.
Lincoln’s initial bass figure is deliberate and powerful as Michel and Cliff playfully call and respond to bookend the sound. Cliff utilizes spacious cut-time technique that is intensely dynamic, with sharp accents and ‘clutch-release’ cymbal trickery to showcase his superior metrical control.
The musical mood contrasts noticeably as the minor key sound embodies mysteriously sublime sustain effects. The magical melodic flow transitions into “A Place in Time.” The sound is passionate as Michel’s piano solo builds with expressive persuasion then effortlessly quiets to a hushed and restrained delivery of the stunningly opulent melodic discourse. The musical aura is serene, majestic, expressive and enchanting. After a brief pause, Cliff begins inventive percussive drum figures that showcase exquisite cymbal technique. Cliff’s clever percussive performance leads into “Repercussions.” Michel Camilo executes fabulous left hand chord melody dissonance that is peppered with spontaneous and random accents that jump around and playfully build the dynamic energy. Lincoln Goines imaginative bass playing corresponds exactly to the trio’s cohesive consent. Cliff adds incredible cut-time figures as Lincoln’s bass walks proud and strong. Michel’s left hand is fluid and literally pounds the chord melody intensely, while his right hand plays triplets incessantly. Lincoln’s bass solo is thoughtful and restrained, featuring careful and delicate high notes; then ‘fat’ bottom thunder. As Cliff solos, he is literally jumping up from the drum throne. Cliff goes into a powerful 4/4 stomp after a frenzied double time solo where he flows wildly over his tom-toms and cymbals with skillfully reckless abandon.
Michel Camilo thanks the audience as he introduces the trio. He pays a special tribute to his mentor and adopted musical father George Wein, who is in the audience tonight. The next composition evolves from a mysteriously dreamy and sadly somber musical passage that becomes “My Secret Place.” The melodic development glistens with a tender and sensual touch that envelops us with a comforting sensation. Cliff caresses his drum kit with feather-like brushwork that stirs the musical imagery. Lincoln chooses his soft bass notes carefully and clearly. He touches high bass notes lovingly with expertise and restraint. Lincoln delicately inserts a few select bass chords that evoke an emotional ‘gush’ reaction from the spellbound audience. Michel musically flutters like a songbird as Cliff touches his brushes affectionately.
The musical mood transitions conspicuously to funky and staccato. The dynamic is super upbeat and joyful. Cliff sharpens the percussive delivery with a staccato reverse stick on his snare drum. This creative combination of euphonic ecstasy evolves into “The Sidewinder.” Michel groans, as his presentation is tight, tough, and exacting. Lincoln’s bass is smoothly slick and soothing. The melodic development is clever and creative as it leads up to a spectacular drum solo from Cliff Almond. Cliff effortlessly transitions from fiery double-time, to succinctly staccato polyrhythmic permutations; utilizing spacious use of rests that at times are dynamically incomprehensible.
The music remains sizzling and hot as the trio breaks into “See You Later.” Michel’s piano is slow and calculated, then flashes into amazing crescendos, left hand accents and chords melodies, as the right hand hastens through spectacular, frenzied note patterns. Michel embarks into the soloing stratosphere with his astounding double time two-hand rolls. I think to myself ‘Michel, please don’t hurt yourself.’ Cliff’s hi-hat work and sweetly syncopated bass drum fully complements this musical mayhem. The rhythmically emotional roller coaster recedes as we experience the serene and lustrous afterglow of “Poinciana.” The music is grandiose, dreamy and confident. Lincoln’s bass notes are sustained, full and particular. The overall sound is passionate, with soothing articulated accents as the melody is messaged and manipulated ingeniously.
The first set ends with the composition “On Fire.” Michel’s piano intro is warming and restrained as we get a ‘circle the wagons’ kind of feeling; a very brief reprieve before the birds of prey swoop down for the musical kill. Michel and Cliff perform a forceful call/response passage as Michel’s left hand slams the chord accents and Cliff’s drum solo is stunning. Michel’s right hand is blurring as Cliff’s facial expression says: BRING IT ON!! Lincoln solos selectively as Michel’s facial expression is passionately rapturous. Cliff responds with his outlandish cut-time divergent dynamics, striking cymbal control, and distinctive bass drum syncopated semantics. Michel’s music and the trio’s performance is ferocious, fiery, passionate and truly maddening!
The second set kicks off with “Tropical Jam.” Captivating and persuasive melodic dissonance, complemented by a polyrhythmic percussive attack, showcase a multifarious musical expression. The music is fiercely frenzied as the trio joins in sharp and distinct ‘stops.’ The musical presentation is captivatingly sensuous as we swing, sway, smile and laugh.
Michel’s piano intro builds and builds in surging intensity. The melodic exploration features tasteful dissonance, and then rips into a frenzied crescendo as we are transported into “Mano A Mano.” Cliff is cooking up snare accents and is relaxed and loose as he flails and slaps his percussive explication. Lincoln’s artistic bass features well-executed triplets and adept melodic accents. Cliff cuts through cleverly with ‘more cowbell.’ Cliff seems at times trance-like with incredibly relaxed and completely random cut-time figures and excellent use of rests. Michel’s piano intro is provocative as his left hand leads with strides. Lincoln’s bass is fat and chubby. The melodic expression is all ‘groove’ as Cliff is super ‘tappy’ on his drum kit. This composition is “Provoce.” The trio builds to a crescendo the then dynamically stops; and resumes hushed and restrained. The energetic rhythmic arrangement is complemented by cut time frolics and frenzied musical fun.
“Sammy Walked In” is a distinctive musical statement. Cliff cleverly utilizes his sticks on the side of the snare, timbale style; and of course ‘more cowbell’ please! The feeling is foot stompin’ as Michel is all energy and overdrive. Michel’s piano is slammin’ crescendos and completely commanding. Cliff complements with a heavy staccato passage showcasing incredible accents and Michel’s right hand blurring with double triple time.
The evening culminates with “Caribe.” The piano solo is a grand Latin melody and rhythm. Cliff cooks as Lincoln grooves the bass line. The trio exploits polyrhythmic glory and cut-time mayhem as they lovingly explore the expressive Latin melody. The Michel Camilo Trio is fabulous. The audience stands and cheers another magnificent performance. Michel stays on top and is cruising at a paramount towering altitude!!!
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