Monday, August 4, 2008

Caramoor Day Three: Michel Camilo!

No pun necessary, just an exclamation point. Everything about Michel Camilo deserves an exclamation point, from his style of dress (a ridiculous purple silk shirt worthy of Liberace) to his tendency to shout out the names of his band members in-between every single song he plays. I want to hate Michel Camilo so badly; he plays too many notes, he's a blatant show-off, he doesn't even pretend he's anything other than a total populist. I can't do it though, he's just too good. He really was the only person who could follow up Jimmy Heath's life-affirming big band set. No one else in jazz (aside from perhaps Eldar) has Camilo's energy, technique, or showmanship.

He opened with a rendition of his calling card original "From Within" that made the Calle 54 version look like it was being played by a trio of amateurs. Of course it didn't hurt that his trio was filled out by two absurdly talented young Cuban musicians, bassist Charles Flores and drummer Dafnis Prieto. Before I go any further, I would like to just etch my awe at Prieto in print for posterity- he's that good. At around five feet tall he is, to paraphrase Lady Sovereign, "the biggest midget in the game," but his tone is so good, and his technique so absurdly strong, that it doesn't matter. In "From Within," he played a two minute drum solo and managed to get the crowd to start shouting for more. He's that good. Flores is also pretty great; you would have to be anchor a trio with these kinds of chops.

But Camilo was the reason everyone was there, and he delivered. Man, did he deliver. Just in case no one had realized throughout his set that Camilo was a technically capable improviser and instrumentalist, he closed with his rendition of "Giant Steps," possibly the single fastest thing I've ever heard. When I found out I'd be seeing Michel Camilo at Caramoor, I was expecting a painfully distasteful, hellishly flashy show that I would hate with enough passion to write a funny pan about here, and what I got was a painfully distasteful, hellishly flashy show that I loved and would go to again.

Next time I'll have a long overdue review of "Earfood," Roy Hargrove's latest.

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