Michel Camilo Trio
The Blue Note, April 5, 2005:
Kathy and I arrive at The Blue Note before the doors open at 6:00 P.M. Within a few minutes, Charles Flores comes out and we hug and embrace hello. It is so good to see him again. He warmly greets another couple that is waiting very early as well. My curiosity is aroused and we quickly say hello. This couple is a mother and son who have flown here from France to see Michel Camilo. They are planning to attend all the shows here at The Blue Note. That is six nights for both shows. Kathy and I immediately strike up a friendly conversation with these interesting and flamboyant fans from France. Marie Bongiorno brought her son Denis to see Michel. Denis is a pianist and aspires to be a professional musician. They are devout Michel Camilo fans and they are both so warm and friendly. Excellent! In a few more minutes Sandra and Michel come to the window and then come outside to greet us. Hugs and kisses to the exuberant and gleaming Camilos. It is so very good to see you again after over a year. Michel warmly greets a father and son, Chris and Christopher, who are equally excited by this special moment. Michel graciously poses for photos with everyone.
We go inside when the doors open and join Marie and Denis at a table directly in front of Charles’ bass. We wait a few more minutes for our dear friend Chris LaRosa to arrive. When he does, we all move to his table directly at the foot of Michel’s Steinway grand piano. I am sitting in the first seat, eyeball to the keyboard. Yes! We catch up quickly on our year apart. I am on the guestlist+1 tonight thanks to The Blue Note publicist, Carolyn McClair. We have savory hors d’oeuvres and a tantalizingly delicious dinner. Daniela serves us tonight and she is gracious, attentive and really takes good care of us for both shows. Soon the last member of our party joins us, Dave Vermier. After some animated and enthusiastic conversation, I discover Dave is from Oakland, New Jersey. Now this is uncanny.
At 8:00 P.M. sharp, Michel Camilo, Charles Flores and a new drummer, Dafnis Prieto, take the stage. With the opening number, “From Within,” Michel Camilo whisks us under his strong musical spell. Michel solos on the introduction, using his powerful performance prowess to dynamically flow from fast to slow with an effortless ease that is supremely magical. The musical presentation is gracious, splendid and emotional. The trio joins in full complement that is soothing and caresses our senses. Dafnis Prieto fondles the melody with a light staccato reverse stick on the snare and sustained cymbal rolls to fill out the sound. Charles Flores walks the bass in a balanced control of well-chosen quarter notes. Michel quickly starts to sizzle with large ‘stride’ left-handed chords, while his right hand executes fiery bursts of melodic scale runs and crescendos in a maddening musical mayhem. The tempo is hot and succinct with 3/4 over 4/4 in pulsating, polyrhythmic poetry. There is a percussion and bass answer/response passage with abrupt and inventive chord accents from Michel. The audience erupts with spontaneous cheers and applause, and this is just the first song!
Michel stops to thank the audience. He is celebrating his birthday this week at The Blue Note. He introduces Charles Flores on bass and the new drummer, Dafnis Prieto, who both come to us from Cuba. Michel starts “Two Of A Kind” with a piano solo that is elegant and captivating. Michel transitions from flawless, flowing crescendos runs to a soothingly solid march that is articulate, clean and keenly sensitive. The piano execution is a distinctively stated melody line, with succinct rhythmic accents, complemented by two-handed chords for dynamic emphasis. There is melodic clarity, definition and strength. The rhythm section is precise and exacting like a fine-tuned musical machine. Michel modulates through relative keys as the melody is thoroughly messaged and manipulated. Charles takes a tremendous bass solo. He conquers the top of the fret board with elegance, grace and determination. Michel adds colorful piano accents and Dafnis soothes us with carefully crafted brush strokes on his drum kit.
Michel plays a popular standard, “Blue Bossa,” both fast and furious. He virtually re-invents the composition, as only Michel Camilo can do. The intro solo is spicy and clever, creative and even better. The melodic development is phenomenal. We witness wildly percussive hand rolls that are a blur to the naked eye. Michel literally jumps out of the piano thrown, in controlled enthusiastic hysteria. With a slower shutter speed, you can actually see what I have, up to now, only been able to try to describe.
Charles is featured on bass, as Dafnis is extremely succinct and delicate on percussion accompaniment. Dafnis takes a drum solo that is hot. It’s not so much super flashy as intuitive, creative and controlled. Michel’s piano solo is succinct, eagerly creative and clever. “Twilight Glow” is mysterious, suspenseful, melancholy and soothing. Michel’s playing is slow, restrained and emotional. Dafnis uses mallets on his drums for that full, rounded, sustain percussive mood. The creative use of rests, creates a musical tension from the space of silence. This sad lament is kept to a crawl for Michel. Charles’ bass walks strong and thoughtful, as he seems to excogitate every precious note-value. The musical presentation is sincere, sad and deeply meaningful. The descending melody line is well executed and sensibly stated. The trio has hit full stride.
“See You Later,” is a dramatic contrast in musical aura. This composition is always extremely impressive, or in other words, blows you away, hot! The musical delivery and melodic presentation is simmering. Michel is dazzling, hypnotic and magnetic. We are witnessing a joyful celebration of true musical expression from deep within Michel’s soul! There are amazing percussive hand rolls that create a blur of unimagined fantasy. The drum solo is inventive, challenging, joyful and succinct and displays Dafnis’ superior drum chops. I love his upside-down 5” splash cymbal.
“Piece Of Cake” starts with a piano solo that is grandiose, with flourishes and a percussive independence that conveys a regal and respectful demeanor. Michel falls into that familiar Latin melodic groove. There is a long enjoyable piano intro. The trio’s groove is reinforced with controlled stops that are fully complemented by clear and resounding accents. There is complete dynamic control and superior melodic development. The ‘fat’ groove is warm and inviting. The radiant warmth of the music exudes the thought of a warm fireplace glowing on a cold winter’s night.
“On Fire” starts with a drum solo. Dafnis is polyrhythmic, ambitious, fast and aggressive. Michel starts like a furious bee with a musical sting! Michel and Dafnis throw musical challenges back and forth in an answer/response form. Dafnis is dynamically creative on the intense range of the spectrum and then quiet and reserved in percussive posturing with control and candor. Then Michel attacks to create the dynamic flash of frenzied musical emotion. Charles’ bass solo is fierce and powerful. Then Charles and Dafnis have a tremendous answer/response passage that showcases the fantastic drum and bass interaction. Michel comps wildly with his left hand as he cleverly creates a variety of polyrhythmic and percussive melodic chords and crescendos.
“Cocowalk” starts the second set. The musical mood is sly and sexy, humorous and crafty. The arrangement is light and sassy, upbeat and fanciful. Michel’s left hand strikes off-time accents, as the melody is strong and clear. The presentation is brash and un-bashful. We all begin to swing and sway. You got it! Michel introduces the next tune by describing a visit to New Orleans where he hears a familiar organic stomp to the beat of rice and beans. The song is a tribute to his dear neighbor in New York: Mongo Santamaria. The tune is called, “Mongo’s Blues.” The song has a light touch with an offbeat tempo. Michel plays down and the trio plays up. Then they coalesce on 3/4 over 4/4. The tempo is captivating and hypnotic as it rolls along. Charles’ bass is full and robust on the bottom. Dafnis is light and syncopated. The groove develops tight and hot. There is a cut-time passage that creates great dynamic contrast. Michel executes large exciting chords over a tight syncopated rhythm. Dafnis’ drum solo is syncopated, polyrhythmic, staccato and extremely tasteful and inventive.
“Thinking Of You’ is gracious, heavenly and conveys a splendid melodic development. This piece is very introspective, deep and emotional. The delicate brushwork on the drums and quiet and reserved bass note choices provide an excellent blend of musical textures. Charles is featured on bass as Michel comps quietly and carefully in the background. Charles reaches off the top of the fret board.
“Dichotomy” is smokin’! The music is electric! The percussion and bass are powerful. The dynamic contrast to a cut time passage and transition to a strong Latin groove further demonstrates the superior musical ability of the trio. The band is smiling as they are obviously enjoying this immensely. Michel is propelled into an exciting double-handed percussion passage, as he madly slaps the keys on definitive accents, in dissonant contrast to a loosy-goosy style that is totally had! Dafnis’ drum solo, from polyrhythmic pulsations to cut time contrast, is excellent. He smiles as he flows through his solo. This solo is quite different as he and Michel toy with each other in an answer/response musical challenge that provides a tremendous backdrop to spontaneous creativity.
“Descarga For Tito” is a tribute to Tito Puente. Michel’s right hand chord rolls are amazing to behold. I stop and just focus my sight on the incredible performance display right before my very eyes. This night is possibly the best viewpoint I have ever had to witness the genius of Michel Camilo’s performance abilities. This is out-of-this-world piano execution. Dafnis plays another memorable drum solo and Charles bass solo is fierce and demanding. The trio is smokin’ together in a fantastic display of amazing performance mastery. There is an incredible piano and drum answer/response passage as they challenge each other to new creative heights.
“Caribe” is hot and heavy. The execution is exquisite as the Latin heat just sizzles before us. The entire dynamic spectrum is touched as the music moves from subtle and sexy to hot and heavy. One last drum solo shows us all that Dafnis Prieto is one amazing performer.
The Michel Camilo Trio blows us away again tonight! The audience is standing and yelling as everyone is at a fevers pitch. This performance is one of the most impressive I have ever seen. Michel Camilo demonstrates quite effortlessly, that his genius performance level continues unabated. Charles Flores continues to amaze and sustain the highest creative consciousness. Dafnis Prieto, although new to the trio, has won over our hearts with an outstanding performance tonight.
Thank you Michel, Charles and Dafnis!
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