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Michel Camilo: Spirit of the Moment

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After winning a Grammy for his last trio venture in 2003, Live at the Blue Note, Camilo decided to move on to other projects, and it wasn’t until a successful Spring 2006 tour that the pianist reformed his trio. Six-year member Charles Flores continues on bass, with new drummer Dafnis Prieto replacing Horacio Hernandez. Camilo was inspired to write eight new tunes in only eight days for this CD, and presented his trio mates with the music only a week before the session. Not only did this provide the spontaneity Camilo was seeking, but most of what is heard here were first takes.

“Just Now” is Caribbean funk, evocative of Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” with a little New Orleans “second line” thrown in. “My Secret Place” features a striking rubato opening leading into a lovingly played Camilo ballad, pensive and introspective. Bill Evans would have applauded this performance. “Spirit of the Moment” is a mix of Latin and South American rhythmic elements that help enliven this intricate Camilo tune, with seamless interaction between the trio. “Repercussions” is a modal romp at a typically intense Camilo tempo. Prieto and Flores are at their responsive and complementary best here. Short versions of “Nefertiti” and “Nardis” are essayed respectively in 9/8 Afro-Cuban, and in a flamenco-flavored style. “Giant Steps” is sadly only two minutes long, but with such a fresh approach and interpretation, one hopes Camilo records an extended version in the future. “Solar (Explorations)” is just that, a collective deconstruction of the Davis piece, simultaneously altered and enhanced.

Of the other Camilo compositions, the airy and sparse “Liquid Crystal,” and “Hurry Up and Wait,” a driving Latin-jazz jam that shifts from 7/4 to 5/2, are among the stand-outs on this absorbing CD. However, one wishes that the enticing five cuts under four minutes were longer, especially given that the entire CD clocks in at only 53:44.