Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catching Up With Michel Camilo, The What's Up? Interview Part Two!

Michel Camilo
Welcome to part two of my interview with Michel Camilo, part one can be found at:

The amazing reharm of the classic Dave Brubeck tune "Take Five"  is a personal nod of admiration as listed in your liner notes. What other performers have influenced you? The intriguing subtleties in the harmonic textures on some of these tunes has my ear going to some early Bill Evans, am I close?

M.C. - "You are right on. I met Dave Brubeck 25 years ago at the Grand Parade Du Jazz in Nice, France, as I was coming off the stage and he had been listening to my Trio set. He then told me how much he had enjoyed our playing. It was one of those great moments! Most recently, I saw him again at the 55th Newport Jazz Festival and told him I had a surprise for him which I hoped that he would enjoy listening to (I was already planning Take Five in solo piano)... Yes, Bill Evans is a major influence in my harmonic textures. I think I have all his recordings and they never cease to amaze me. What a beautiful player and composer he was. The other influences that you may hear are Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson in some of my runs, as well as McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock in the modal improvisations. Then, in the more Latin oriented songs my left hand beats are influenced by Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona, who was one of the pioneers in translating the rhythms of the percussion instruments to the piano. You probably also felt a subliminal connection to an early Keith Jarrett or Chick Corea in "At Dawn", as well as the Chopin's
Nocturnes or Ravel influenced approach to "A Place In Time" and "Sandra's Serenade"."

You have received wide spread critical acclaim, you are a Grammy winner. What do you think makes a good critic?. For me, I try and write from a more reader friendly perspective and not go overtly
technical as that seems to limit your audience to strictly professional musicians.

M.C. - "Yes, I guess that's the reason I also kept the liner notes very simple since I wanted the listeners to enjoy this solo piano journey. I believe that music is the universal language of the soul, since it has the power
to makes us smile, cry, get goosebumps, remember our loved ones, race our hearts and motivate us. As a performer/composer I am really interested in the "message behind the notes", or how can I touch and move their inner self with my music."

Mano a Mano was a wonderful release where you used small percussion for an incredibly intimate feel with some very technically challenging tunes. A perfect marriage of simplicity and complexity.
Are you considering some type of follow up and while What's Up? is certainly brand new. Is it ever too early to start thinking about the next project?

M.C. - "Thanks, yes "Mano a Mano" was quite a tour-de-force and I was happy with the results we got. Both Giovanni Hidalgo and Charles Flores played great on it. As I mentioned before I am hoping to record the third volume with Tomatito, which is a nice blend of Jazz and Flamenco styles, at some point
in the near future. But in the meantime, I have been touring also with my Trio and just performed at this year's Newport Jazz Festival with a great Sextet. In November, I will have my 17 piece Big Band at the Blue Note in New York and in Tokyo. Besides my Jazz projects, I am also going to be appearing as guest soloist and composer with several Symphony Orchestras around the world. So I guess my next project will be one of these, but it is still too early to tell, so I'm open to any of these and we'll see what comes up first!"

A sincere note of gratitude and thanks to Michel Camilo and the good people at DL Media for making this project happen. You can check out my review of What's Up? below.
Also don't forget to check out Michel Camilo at

Photos and videos courtesy of and You Tube / Sony