Legendary Pianist Michel Camilo Celebrates 25th Album as a
Leader with Stunning All-Star Big Band Release
Essence — Available June 7 via Resilience Music Alliance
Camilo Revisits Original Compositions From
Remarkable Career with Dazzling New Arrangements
For his landmark 25th album as a leader, iconic pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo wanted to do something truly special. That’s saying something, given that every release by the GRAMMY®, Latin GRAMMY®, and Emmy-winning Camilo is an event. But the Dominican-born pianist set out to celebrate in a big way: namely, by reconvening his all-star big band for the first time in a quarter-century to explore the full scope and breadth of his remarkable career.
Essence, due out June 7 via Resilience Music Alliance, offers exactly that: the essence of Camilo’s artistry spanning the last 40 years. The music, arranged in collaboration with trumpeter and longtime collaborator Michael Philip Mossman, is drawn from key points along Camilo’s storied trajectory. Most of the material has only been heard in trio settings in the past, while much of it hasn’t been revisited in the studio since the original recordings. All of it, however, vividly reflects the composer’s diverse influences, bringing together the various strands of his passion for jazz improvisation, Latin roots, and classical training.
“I tried to choose music from every stage of development as a creative artist and as a composer,” Camilo says. “I picked songs that represent shifts in my career and my point of view, that showcase how I developed my sound. I’ve always thought of the trio as a mini-orchestra, so the big band is a way to celebrate my career and my journey with a group of friends creating together in the studio.”
The cover of the album references an even more basic essence, the four elements that contribute to all life on the planet – each of which is represented vibrantly in the pianist’s singular sound. “My music has the fire, of course,” Camilo explains. “The air is the space between the lines and the way we breathe together. The water comes in the flow of ideas while the earth is in the grooves, the organic way they bring you down to earth.”
While Camilo has performed his music as a featured soloist with some of the world’s most acclaimed ensembles – Danish Radio Big Band, WDR Big Band, Luxembourg Jazz Orchestra, Vienna VolksOper Big Band, Bulgarian Brass Association, countless symphony orchestras – Essence is only the third occasion on which he’s recorded with his own big band. The first was the acclaimed 1994 album One More Once, followed in 2009 by Caribe – a live recording of the same material from the pianist’s 1994 return to his native Dominican Republic.
The ensemble Camilo has assembled for Essence fits the occasion; the 18-piece band comprises a stellar group of old friends, recent collaborators, and new acquaintances culled from the foremost plays in modern jazz. The band features a woodwind section with Antonio Hart, Sharel Cassity, Ralph Bowen, Adam Kolker and Frank Basile; in addition to Mossman the trumpets include Raul Agras, John Walsh, Diego Urcola and Kali Rodriguez-Peña; while the trombone line boasts Michael Dease, Steve Davis, Jason Jackson and David Taylor.
The core of the band, as always, consists of Camilo’s remarkable rhythm section. In-demand drummer Cliff Almond has worked with the pianist for nearly 30 years, appearing on many of his most beloved releases. Ricky Rodriguez is a young lion originally from Puerto Rico who has become Camilo’s bassist of choice in recent years, alongside his work with Joe Locke, Arturo O’Farrill and Dafnis Prieto, among others. The newest addition is Eliel Lazo, a Cuban percussionist and vocalist currently based in Copenhagen.
That never-ending sense of discovery lies at the essence of Camilo’s brilliant sound, which has thrilled audiences throughout four decades and, with the release of the stellar Essence, 25 albums. “Time flies when you’re having fun,” Camilo concludes.
Photo Credit: Frankie Celenza
Michel Camilo · Essence
Resilience Music Alliance · Release Date: June 7, 2019
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