Per capita, a disproportionate percentage of the best jazz piano players now come from Spanish-speaking countries (especially Cuba). A partial list includes Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdés, David Virelles, Alfredo Rodríguez, Chano Dominguez and Edward Simon. Michel Camilo, from the Dominican Republic, has a larger following than most of them, and has won several Latin Grammys. Camilo is not one of the best piano players in jazz, but he is a special entertainer.
His strengths, which mostly have to do with his monster chops and the infectious joy he takes in displaying them, are manifest on Live in London. So are his limitations. On the opening track, the original “From Within,” he pummels and assaults the keyboard with maniacal fury. It is classic Camilo: 11 minutes of excess, bombast, melodrama and climactic extravagance. It is a wildly self-indulgent demonstration of every crowd-pleaser in his bag of cute tricks. The audience in Queen Elizabeth Hall loves it.