Monday, September 17, 2007

In Review--Michel Camilo Trio in Concert

Michel Camilo & Trio
Jazz Alley
Seattle, Washington
September 13, 2007

I wasn't planning on reviewing the Michel Camilo Trio concert since I had previously written a concert preview for World Music Central. However, the trio's performance superseded anything I expected, and begs for a review. And drummer Cliff Almond was substituting for Dafnis Prieto for the Jazz Alley gigs.

The concert commenced with my favorite Camilo composition, From Within. The electrifying performance with all of its musical twists, turns, detours, and flights of fancy left me wondering how the musicians were going to top their opening number! Watching the drummer Almond ride beats,Camilo attacking the keys of the grand piano, and bassist Charles Flores holding down the center of the stage, gave my heart and my eyes a workout. I cannot even imagine the exhaustion that the musicians must have felt. I felt energized.

The trio kicked into some New Orleans jazz which Camilo was inspired to write during a short stay in that city where he taught workshops at Loyola University. While that song did not build into the frenzy of the opening number, it felt spirited nonetheless. And the trio picked up speed later in the set with an extravagant jam session compliments of the song, Repercussions, off of the latest recording, Spirit of the Moment. The song could have also been dubbed "for percussion" since the Almond with his bag of tricks, appeared to be multi-tasking behind his large drum set. All of these musicians were pleasant to watch in action. They seemed to magnetize the audience members' eyes to the stage. One might even say we were held captive or spellbound for the duration of the short concert.

The trio performed beautiful jazz ballads too, with a remarkable performance of My Secret Place, also off of the new recording. The beauty of that particular piece, literally made my heartache. Flores bowed his bass cello-style, Almond employed brushes lightly on the snare and cymbals, and Camilo's piano took on a melancholy timbre, that suggested light nocturnal rain.

Other highlights included, a rousing salsa number with Camilo's clever signature phrases. And a multifaceted, multi-tempo, and multipurpose cover of A Night in Tunisia. The trio ended their set with that classic, causing the audience members to leap out of their seats begging for more electrifying songs. However, the musicians were exhausted, as anyone could imagine, so they went to their dressing room to recover until their next performance. They would give a repeat performance 30 minutes later.

My friend and I didn't stay for the second set, but she mentioned that unlike with other jazz music, she didn't feel nostalgic or allow her mind to wander. Camilo has a talent for drawing you into the moment, and to focus on his playing. This is a rare gift.

Camilo had mentioned at the beginning of the concert that he had not performed in Seattle for 14 years. And certainly, an hour and a half set was not enough time for the trio to fill in the gaps of the huge amount of work Camilo has achieved in the past during those years. Nevertheless, if you ever get a chance to see Camilo in concert, don't pass up the opportunity. Another 14 years, would be a long time to wait to see this extraordinary composer and player in concert. They will be in Europe this fall.

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