Michel Camilo Trio
B.B. King Blues Club, September 24, 2003:
Kathy and I go into Manhattan on a gorgeous sunny fall afternoon. We relax at Lucille’s bar, as we are several hours early for the show. We meet Keith and Gloria before the show. Keith is from Passaic, New Jersey and teaches at the Martin Luther King #6 School. Gloria is originally from Phoenix, Arizona and this is her first Michel Camilo concert. I see Nelson from Delaware, who’s here with his wife Charmaine. It is so nice to see Nelson again, who comes all this way to see Michel Camilo. We soon see our dear friend Chris La Rosa. He has come tonight with Roberta Wallach, Frank and Teresa. We all sit at a center table together. Roberta is starring in, “the identical same temptation,” a new play written & directed by Robert Glaudini. The play is currently showing at Theatre for the New City, in the Village. Frank is the bassist for the heavy metal group, Anthrax, very cool!
We all have an excellent dinner and drinks and Teresa has a super tempting dessert of mud pie. The patiently sweet and humorous Beth serves us tonight. The service is excellent as always. I am on the guest list +1 tonight, thanks to Rena Siwek (PR Director here at The B.B. King Blues Club). The club fills up toward show time and the mood is jovial and upbeat. We are all so excited in anticipation of tonight’s special event: The CD Release Party for Michel Camilo’s ‘Live At The Blue Note.’ Chris, Roberta, Kathy and I were all at those gigs and witnessed first hand, the performance excellence of Michel Camilo, Charles Flores and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez. Andre, a long-time Michel Camilo fan, who goes way back to the Mikell’s jazz club days, joins us at the table.
Michel, Charles and “El Negro” take the stage at 8:18 P.M. The first song is, “Cocowalk.” The groove is immediate. The musical feel is bouncy and light, controlled and tempered. Charles’ smile is infectious as his bass notes jump out at you. “El Negro” plays a double-time hi-hat, left hand rolls, and hot Latin accents on the crown of his ride cymbal. The energy level rises significantly and fast. The excitement is contagious as everyone is drawn into this musical magnet!
The next song, “Two Of A Kind,” is soothingly slow, sensual, succinct and a very delicate touch. The rhythm is steady and exacting as the melody is weaved by the piano. The band exhibits excellent balance and blend. “El Negro” dances ride cymbal triplets, as his hi-hat closes so crisply. He utilizes the reverse stick on the snare to articulate the Latin tempo clearly. The ride cymbal sizzles smoothly and steadily, as the melodic parade sways and curls through the dynamically controlled rhythmic pulse. Soon Michel lets loose. Charles’ bass is probing and curiously prodding in its attack. Charles’ bass solo is creatively spontaneous, with well-placed rests. He contrasts this dynamically, with amazing scale runs, selective note choice and unique phrasing. The band simmers in a creative unison of sound, to embrace a supreme blend of musical magic; a kind of harmonious expresso!
Michel introduces the next composition, “Hello & Goodbye,” with his solo piano playing an incredibly melodic blend of color, which is playfully curious and captivatingly inventive. He executes long strings of scales, complemented by dissonant and rhythmically challenging chord accents. This introduction evolves to a hard Latin rhythm and familiar Latin melodic pattern. The dynamic level goes high then low quite seamlessly. Charles Flores goes way up on the bass. He is very expressive and peaked with emotion. Charles and “El Negro” have strong musical interplay as Michel comps the chord melodies. “El Negro” is very percussive, featuring the wood block and succinctly stated reverse stick on the snare. He maintains the strong Latin beat with his left foot on the pedal cowbell. He displays his totally independent polyrhythmic abilities, with right hand counter rhythm accents, while maintaining effortless left hand rolls. Now, Michel attacks the piano! He enthusiastically plays his percussive double-handed chord rolls on the keyboard. This is Michel at his creatively emotional best.
The next song, “The Magic In You,” is quiet, reserved, coy and blissful. The intro is curious and toying in nature. Michel’s piano conveys moments of sorrow and joy in alternating passages. “El Negro” is playing brushes, hi-hat accents and a delicate sustain cymbal. What incredible technique. The musical picture is demure, respectful and serene. This long contrastingly creative mood is serious, meaningful and deliberate, for an extended period of time. This Michel is controlled and serious, conveying a passion of expression that is deep, melancholy and provocative.
Next is, “Tequila,” like no other. The arrangement is tight, succinct and creates a feeling of anticipation. The approach is thoughtful and funny, as our table shouts “tequila” and Michel laughs. Soon the cooking starts with creative melodic development and incredible soloing. “El Negro” takes a percussion solo that is mischievously ingenious and clearly exhibits his superior choice of percussive notes and phrasing.
Song six is, “Dichotomy.” “El Negro” takes a feature drum solo intro. He is hot and simultaneously reserved. His playing is super-polyrhythmic. Michel comps chords before he takes off on an incredible piano solo. Out of his creative frenzy comes extremely precise chord accents. “El Negro’s” left foot keeps exacting time on the pedal-pushing cowbell. The musical development goes farther and farther out, constantly building and building to incredible musical excitement. The piano solo is an incredible frenzy of musical performance genius. Michel comments that the last composition is a tribute to Art Blakey. Years ago they played together at The Village Gate and Mikell’s. Michel says, “The last composition reveals both sides of my heart, Jazz and Latin music, in a dichotomy of musical expression.”
The next song, “At Night,” is mysterious, sultry, slow and serene. “El Negro” plays a quiet Latin beat with a discrete cowbell and left hand snare routine. He plays bare handed with the right hand. The attack level is reserved and restrained with excellent use of rests, demonstrating seriously moody musical contrast. The bass blends perfectly with a sensitive touch that is extremely exacting, with concise and well-chosen passing tones. Charles bass solo is probing and purposely uneven, showcasing flourishes of notes and executing amazing finger rolls with the right hand. What incredible chops! This is magnificent playing and an excellent chart, which is extremely moving.
The next song, “This Way Out,” starts with an amazing drum solo from “El Negro.” His left foot keeps a strong 5/4-meter on the pedal cowbell. He simultaneously plays blazing rolls and accents with the blur of his amazing hands which is captivatingly exciting and totally thrilling. Dynamic control is displayed with a creative change to swing jazz tempo, with a strong walking bass and Michel’s augmented dissonance in the melodic development. The band resumes the locomotive cascade with double time explosive fire. Now they are rolling along ferociously in a musical stampede. Charles bass solo is contrastingly subtle, sparse and precise. His attack is subdued and controlled, then frenzied and expressive. He displays performance genius with his exquisite right hand finger rolls. The band is smokin’. There is an incredible answer/response passage on piano and drums. Michel and “El Negro” exchange musical virtuosity in a playfully challenging exchange of musical outbursts. “El Negro” displays his performance prowess with 4-bar, one handed, solo passages.
The next song starts measured and reserved. The music starts slow and sounds like a lullaby of thought and reflection. The mood is cherished, serene, slow, controlled, secretive and somber. The musical tone is of contemplation and sorrow. Then there is a dynamic eruption of musical force as the trio is electrified, instantaneously boiling over and immediately catching... “On Fire!” “El Negro’s” 5/4-time left foot on the pedal cowbell and completely independent right foot accents on the bass drum continues to mesmerize me. Michel executes his amazing musical frenzy with long melodic scale runs as “El Negro” solos incredibly in a blurred vision of performance genius.
The first encore song is, “ See You Later.” This is a super Latin funky rhythm. The mood is soothing and yet fiery. Michel displays his melodic charm and performance excellence. He attacks the piano in a frenzy of scales that convey a creative concept of melody that is really incomparable to anyone, or anything else in this world. “El Negro’s” drum solo is an amazingly spectacular polyrhythmic frenzy of spontaneous percussive innovation.
The last song, “Why Not,” starts out slow. This is a blissful, meaningful and sobering musical passage. Slowly and slyly Michel slips back to exuberant excitement. The headline should read, “Camilo can NOT be contained!” Michel plays a long piano intro that evolves into a bright and cheerfully happy, bouncy and thrilling exhibition of double-handed chord rolls that seem almost out of control, but are not. This is musical fun and joyful collaborative creativity.
Michel Camilo, Charles Flores and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez put on a spectacular display of musical mastery. We are all amazed at the creative spirit of the trio. We came here tonight to be thrilled and we leave, BLOWN AWAY! The musical genius of this band is displayed together and in each amazing solo. As Michel Camilo continues his performance prowess and endlessly creative peak, we are all privileged to bear witness to these incredibly ingenious performances, time after time.
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