Michel Camilo – master of eighty-eight keys

The energy of a tropical piano storm hits the Copenhagen Jazz festival

The man has many titles and talents.

Dominican-born musician Michel Camilo is an all-rounder: he can be labeled a composer, bandleader and a lecturer.

But regardless of his titles and skills, he is best known and enjoyed as a full-blood jazz pianist. Camilo masters the piano in a host of different music genres; classical music, Latin American, film music and of course, jazz music.

To witness a storm
Camilo’s extraordinary talent and enthusiasm has brought him not only the highest civilian honours his nation has to offer, but it has also taken him all around the world.

And on Wednesday July 8 at Amager Bio, as part of the Copenhagen Jazz festival, Camilo’s talents were on full display.

To be honest, I wasn’t that familiar with the artist and therefore did not really know what to expect from the concert. On his own homepage, a concert experience with Camilo was described “as witnessing the energy of a tropical storm being unleashed on 88 keys.”

Sounded promising, although I’ve also never experienced a tropical storm. That was about to change.

Steinway to heaven
Amager Bio was sold out with an audience of around 200 excitedly awaiting Camilo’s grand entrance.

The centre of the stage was adorned with a beautiful black Steinway and Sons concert grand, in front of red satin curtains. That was it. It was clear that for a storm to unfold here, the master’s skills were required.

Dominican rhythms set free
Suddenly Camilo appears on the stage and walks straight to the piano and begins playing.

The first song he plays is called ‘From Within’, and Camilo demonstrates an energy that embraces the audience immediately.

Within the next songs, Camilo shows the variety of his talents and jumps between different genres, including ‘What’s up’, which oozes Latin American jazz elements.

You can definitely feel his Dominican roots and it’s clear that rhythm is simply coursing through Camilo’s veins.

His improvisation skills were exhibited during his version of ‘Take Five’, the legendary tune by the Dave-Brubeck quartet.

Camilo and his anecdotes
The audience remained surprisingly quiet and seemed captivated by Camilo’s mesmerising performance. But after the first set of three songs, they can wait no longer and a big round of applause rings out through the venue.

Camilo played two more sets and kept the bar high with an interesting mixture of up-beat and up-lifting songs, and slow, more inwardly reflective songs.

Camilo, however, refused to settle for a satisfied silence and pulled one more surprise up from his masterful sleeve.

Dazzling duo
Cuban born, but now Copenhagen-based percussionist, Eliel Lazo, who himself plays with musicians and formations such as Mikkel Nordsø and The Cuban Funk Machine, burst forth to the stage.

Camilo and Lazo cranked the energy level in the hall to its peak. An accentuated rhythmic partnership blossomed as the two talents commence in an instrumental conversation between piano and percussion, a perfect ending to the evening.

For me, and the rest of the bedazzled crowd, the storm has taken hold.

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