Michel Camilo Cyber Interview
The second guest to our Cyber Interview is a Jazz fusion pianist
Michel Camilo who is known for unique high speed technical play
style with latin fravor.
The interview has been conducted via E-mail helped by Sandra who is Michel's
Michel also provided MIDI file which is based on title tune of his
album ¨On Fire¨. It is arranged for two pianos and overdubbed
by Michel himself.
Enjoy Cyber Interview with Michel Camilo!
|One More Once||Suntan|
To listen to RealAudio and MIDI files, please seeHow to Enjoy CyberFusion.
On Fire copyright by Michel Camilo/Redondo Music-BMI/SGAE
Let's start Cyber Interview! Will you tell us about your recent live at Red Sea
This was my second visit to the Red Sea Jazz Festival, which lasts
four days and is the main one in Israel. This year they were celebrating
their Tenth Anniversary Edition with a selection of artists from all the
previous ones, i.e: Elvin Jones, Phil Woods, Brecker Brothers, Spyro
Gyra, Didier Lockwood, Dee Dee Bridgewater, myself and many more...
I had playing with me Lincoln Goines on bass and Horacio "El Negro"
Hernandez on drums. We did two concerts at the Coca-Cola Hall which went
great; the audience gave us several standing ovations and we had a lot
of fun playing for them! Also, the second evening the concert was
broadcasted "live" by FM Radio and it was also taped for Israeli TV.
I had a very "special" experience the next day when I went nextdoor to
swim with the dolphins in the Red Sea!!
In your latest album "One More Once" , you played with a big band for the first time
and I was rather suprised at your traditional big band jazz arrangement since
I had expected more latin fravored arrangement.
Will you tell the story of this recording?
This project really started in Copenhagen, Denmark when the Danish
Radio Big Band (DRBB) invited me to do a concert with them at the
Montmartre Jazz Club; they had read that I always wrote for my trio as a
mini-orchestra, so I tried to translate some of my trio pieces for Big
Band and we were very successful, so later we toured Europe and the
Caribbean together with my trio.
When I returned to New York I proposed "One More Once" to Dr. George
Butler at Columbia Records (Sony) and he loved the idea. So I rewrote
some of the charts and wrote new ones as well, then called all the best
New York musicians I could find and went to rehearse the music.
Everyone was very enthusiastic about the challenging repertoire and I'm
sure you can hear how they all enjoyed the details in my music and
played them just great!! I never thought of this album as a
"traditional big band" one, but I did want to use the "real technique"
of writing for this type of ensemble (which I had studied with Don
Sebesky in New York), using tutti passages, brass voicings, shout
choruses, unison lines, etc. and this way, by mixing tradidion with my
music I wanted this album to be hip! Anyway, I think the Latin flavor
is there in the grooves, montunos, percussion, syncopations, etc.
After this album was done we played several concerts in New York and the
Caribbean. One of them was filmed "live" and hopefully we'll be able to
release this video sometime in the future. The band played great and
the soloists burned!!
Your music has strong latin feeling maybe because of your mother
country. What kind of music were you listening and playing before
you moved to U.S.A.?
When I was in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic I was playing
mainly "hard-bop", "fusion" and classical music - I was a member of the
National Symphony Orchestra at 16 -, so the Latin influence really came
out when I moved up to New York in 1979 and realized then that my
"roots" were important.
Every time I see you playing at Jazz clubs, I am impressed by your
unique and high technical piano style.
How did you establish your current playing style?
In two phases, first I studied classical piano since 9 at the
National Conservatory of the Dom. Rep.; and second in New York I studied
privately with Jacob Lateiner from Juilliard School of Music who also
taught me a complete different piano technique. That's why I always say
that I have two piano techniques and I just try to use the best of each
one, whatever makes it easier to play what I am hearing and feeling at
the moment with the least amount of energy spent.
I also read once in an Oscar Peterson interview that he used to try to
learn a song in all 12 keys and that this way of practicing would open
up his ears and at the same time make his fingers adapt easier to any
position on the keyboard.
Another thing I did was to transcribe solos by John Coltrane, Charlie
Parker, etc. and play them with both hands. Since I tried to use solos
by horn players this would force my fingers to move in a different way.
Of course, I recommend lots of Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Bach,
Scriabin, etc. as well. There is also a little book by Christoph von
Dohnanyi which I think is called "Exercises for the professional
pianist"...it is an excellent tool for "keeping in shape".
The last thing that helped me was Karate, which taught me about mind
over body. Never think that it is too hard or impossible to play!
Since I saw you for the first time in New York in 1983 as a member of
French Toast, You've been playing with Anthony Jackson and Dave Weckle
and I think 3 of you are one of the best piano trio in the
world now. How did you come to know and play with these 2 talented
Thanks! Dave Weckl was recommended to us by Peter Erskine who had
heard him playing with another band in New York City. And Anthony
Jackson was an original member of French Toast. I was recommended by
Gordon Gottlieb who was the percussionist. So we all met there and knew
that we had a "special chemistry" together. I think what helped us even
more was that we played every Monday evening at an uptown Manhattan club
called Mikell's and this gave us an opportunity to develop a musical
language together (almost ESP-like). After we did an album for Electric
Bird/King Records called "French Toast", I formed my own sextet and Dave
and Anthony stayed with me. Finally, we played as a trio for the first
time at Carnegie Hall, as an opening act for Tania Maria, in '84 and got
an standing ovation! So that's the reason I recorded some numbers with
this format for my first album "Why Not!" and later "Suntan/Michel
Camilo In Trio".
This may be a tough question since you've been playing with many
great musicians but who do you want to play with among musicians who
you've never played with before
There are so many! To name a few of the ones I haven't played
with: Dennis Chambers, Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, Gregg Hutchinson,
Jeff Watts, Brian Blade, Brandford Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Elvin
Jones, and so on and so on...
You are always smiling while you play piano even though songs you play
sound very difficult to play.
What is difficult song to play which does not allow you smile while
Gee, I haven't thought about this before... :) :) :)
Let me see..., maybe the song "As One"? from the "Rendezvous" album
which has a lot of polyrhythms? But I'm not sure... ;) ;) :) :)
In Japan, there are many female Michel Camilo fans and you are
often surrounded by young girls after you play in jazz club there.
Has your wife Sandra ever mentioned about this?
Doesn't she complain you?
No, she doesn't complain about the young girls; she is very
supportive and likes that I am appreciated by my fans. She thinks that
it is a compliment to her "good taste" that other girls like me and my
music. Wow! :)
Here is the last question .Will you tell us about your future plan of
recordings and tours?
I just signed a new record contract with TropiJazz/RMM. This is a
New York label, distributed by MCA, that specializes in Latin & Jazz.
It is a very successful one and they usually have an evening at the JVC
Jazz Festival in New York which is always sold-out.
I am scheduled to go into the studio at the end of October to record my
next album. This album will be released next Spring '97.
In the meantime, I just participated as "featured guest artist" in
another project called "Hands In Motion" by master percussionist
Giovanni Hidalgo for the same label TropiJazz/RMM, which will be
released this Fall '96. This album is my first duo collaboration - only
Piano & Percussion - and it turned out to be lots of fun!!
Thank you very much for the Cyber-Interview!
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Last update Nov16,1996