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Michel Camilo On Piano Jazz

Michel Camilo.
Courtesy of the artist
Michel Camilo.

Since he first came to New York 30 years ago, pianist and composer Michel Camilo has made a name for himself as an inventive and ferocious jazz player. His amazing skills at the piano, forged at the Dominican Republic's National Conservatory and National Symphony Orchestra — and later, at Mannes and Juilliard in New York — have allowed him to make contributions to the world of classical music as well.

Camilo talks with host Marian McPartland about his "two careers" of late — performing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with symphony orchestras while also releasing award-winning jazz albums. Camilo traces his interest in both styles to his musical family in the Dominican Republic, where an aunt might sit down to play a classical piece followed by an uncle playing a popular number.

Camilo's various influences are on display in two original tunes performed in this Piano Jazz session. "The Magic in You" is a recent composition in honor of his wife. Its beautifully complex changes leave plenty of room for inspired improvisational flourishes. Camilo's compelling personal story is given musical form in "Reflections," a bluesy, meditative, Latin-flavored ballad.

From his classical concertos, his work on soundtracks and his own compositions, it's clear that Camilo loves to push himself musically. He proves the point on Chick Corea's flamenco-inspired "Spain." McPartland joins in as they continue the Latin theme, performing Jobim's "Corcovado."

Camilo and McPartland wind up the hour with "Blue Monk," as both show off their mischievous sides.

Originally recorded April 12, 2006.

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David Lyon