Pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo revisits some of his essential music on Essence, featuring new arrangements. Camilo is an award-winning pianist who has a passion for jazz, Latin American music and flamenco.
Essence, scheduled for release June 7, 2019 features an impressive lineup of musicians, including many longtime collaborators.
“I tried to choose music from every stage of development as a creative artist and as a composer,” Camilo says about Esence. “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.”
Michel Camilo was born into a musical family and played accordion before switching to piano at the age of nine. In 1979, he arrived to New York, where the self-taught student of American jazz, continued his studies and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985. After three years as a member of Paquito D’Rivera’s band, in 1988, Camilo released his self-titled Epic debut. The album became an instant success and held the top jazz album spot for eight consecutive weeks. His next recording, On Fire, was voted one of the top three Jazz Albums of the Year by Billboard and 1990s On the Other Hand was a top-ten jazz album.
In 2000, Camilo’s Verve release, Spain, with Spanish flamenco guitar maestro Tomatito, won Best Latin Jazz Album in the first-ever Latin Grammy Awards. Camilo also appeared on the soundtrack CD for the acclaimed Latin jazz film Calle 54, directed by the Oscar-winning Spaniard Fernando Trueba.
2002 marked a special year for the ever-versatile Camilo with the release of two albums, one classical and one Jazz. In February, Decca released his Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, Suite for Piano, Strings and Harp & Caribe, to celebrate his guest appearance with the NSO conducted by Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and in March Telarc released Triangulo.
August 2003 marked the Telarc release of Live at the Blue Note, featuring Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez on drums and Charles Flores on acoustic bass. This two-CD set captures the quintessential Camilo “sound” live for the first time. Camilo called upon drummer Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez to bring his rich Cuban roots and spirit, which he expresses unlike any other drummer. The 1997 Grammy Award winner performed and recorded with legends such as McCoy Tyner, Carlos Santana, and as a member of renowned Latin ensembles like Tito Puente’s Tropi-Jazz All Stars, El Negro has earned a renowned reputation as one of the most powerful and versatile players in the current musical scene.
Bassist Charles Flores played and inspired the best, while continuing to challenge himself and his peers in new artistic directions. A graduate of Cuba’s prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte, Flores has performed and recorded with Juan Pablo Torres, Steve Turre, Jane Bunnett and the BBC Orchestra in London masters. While in Cuba, Charles was recruited by one of the most important figures in the history of Cuban jazz, pianist Emiliano Salvador. In addition, Flores was also the bassist for the groundbreaking Cuban fusion group AfroCuba and for Salsa sensation Isaac Delgado.
French Toast (Electric Bird, 1984)
Why Not? (Electric Bird, 1985)
Suntan/In Trio (Electric Bird, 1986)
Michel Camilo (CBS Portrait, 1988)
On Fire (Portrait, 1989)
On the Other Hand (Epic, 1990)
Amo Tu Cama Rica (1991?) Rendezvous (Columbia, 1993)
One More Once (Columbia, 1994)
Two Much (1996)
Thru My Eyes (Columbia, 1997) Spain (Verve, 1999)
Piano Concerto, Suite & Caribe (Decca, 2001) Triangulo (Telarc, 2002) Live at the Blue Note (Telarc, 2003)
Solo (Telarc, 2004)
Rhapsody in Blue (Telarc, 2006) Spain Again (Emarcy, 2006)
Spirit of the Moment (Telarc, 2006)
Mano a Mano (Emarcy, 2011) What’s Up? (Okeh, 2013) Live in London (Redondo Music, 2015) Spain Forever (Universal, 2016)
Spain Forever, the most recent collaboration between Dominican jazz piano master Michel Camilo and legendary flamenco guitarist Tomatito won the Best Instrumental Album at the 18th Latin Grammy Awards.
The album includes an original composition by Camilo and recreations of classics by Egberto Gismonti, Charlie Haden, Astor Piazzola, Erik Satie, Ennio Morricone, Django Reindhart, Luiz Bonfá and Chick Corea.
La Mar de Músicas, the significant world music and rock festival in Cartagena (southeastern Spain), will celebrate the traditional, cutting-edge and mestizo sounds of Latin America. The festival, organized by the City Council of Cartagena, will feature 23 groups from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Chile, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala as well as additional acts from Africa, North America and Europe. La Mar de Músicas is expected to run July 14 to 22. Of the 48 concerts scheduled, 22 will be free.
In addition to music, arts fans visiting Cartagena can look ahead to a series of events featuring other art forms: La Mar de Arte (Art), La Mar de Letras (Literature) and La Mar de Cine (Film).
La Mar de Músicas opens on Friday, July 14 with Puerto Rican artist René Pérez, the leader of Calle 13. He’ll present his first solo work, “Residente”. That same night, the festival will showcase innovative Colombian act Puerto Candelaria, Ecuadorian Nicola Cruz, Peruvian psychedelic folk band Kanaku y el Tigre, and Mexican indie star Carla Morrison.
Two additional acts from Puerto Rico are scheduled: iLe, René’s sister and also former Calle 13 member. She’ll present her first solo album that inspired by 1950s boleros. African-American artist Mark Underwood, who relocated to Puerto Rico, will showcase his futuristic folkloric concept under the name of Ifé.
In addition to Puerto Candelaria, the Colombian lineup includes mestizo rock masters Aterciopelados and roots innovators Systema Solar.
Mateo Kingman is the other artist representing Ecuador. His music makes reference to nature and jungle sounds.
Bareto, one of the finest Peruvian bands at the moment is projected to showcase its alternative tropical sound.
Cuban music fans can look ahead to concerts by La Dame Blanche (Yaite Ramos Rodriguez), a vocalist and flute player who mixes urban and tropical genres. The festival has also planned to celebrate the lifetime achievement of legendary Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés, who’ll receive the La Mar de Musicas 2017 prize. Pablo Milanés is set to perform a special concert accompanied on stage by Pablo López, Rozalén and Jorge Marazu.
Chile returns to La Mar de Músicas with a tribute to the influential folklorist Violeta Parra. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the writer of the iconic song “Gracias a la vida” and the festival has planned a special concert that includes Chilean singer-songwriter Manuel García and the granddaughter of Violeta, Tita Parra. This tribute includes an exhibition, a lecture and the projection of the documentary that her brother Ángel Parra made. La Mar de Musicas will also feature irresistible Chilean cumbia masters Chico Trujillo.
The talent from Brazil includes young female singers Céu and Maria Gadú who are well known in their country, as well as Brazilian Afrobeat act Bixiga 70, a world music sensation in 2016.
Representing Honduras is Garifuna music star Aurelio. Another Central American artist, Madrid-based Guatemalan artist Meneo is scheduled to present his vision of global electronica.
Argentine band Chancha Vía Circuito is set to present its combination of Latin American folk sounds and electronica.
Celebrated pianist Michel Camilo, from the Dominican Republic and flamenco guitar maestro Tomatito will present the latest part of their longtime collaboration. The two artists have been working together for years, celebrating Latin American music, jazz, flamenco and Spanish music. Their latest album is Spain Forever.
Two artists from the United States are set to perform, folk innovator Leyla McCalla and jazz singer Kandance Springs. Leyla McCalla plays a mix of old time folk music, jazz and traditional Haitian music.
Africa is usually well represented at La Mar de Músicas. This year the festival’s last day has programmed a great African party with Malian star Oumou Sangaré, who will present her new album, and the most important African reggae act, Alpha Blondy. Other African acts include Konono nº1’s congotronics and Angolan artists Toto ST and Elenco Da Paz.
European acts include influential pop singer-songwriter Franco Battiato (who was also an electronic music pioneer in Italy); acclaimed British reggae band UB40; Portugal’s Rodrigo Leão, who will be accompanied by Australian artist Scott Matthew; and Norwegian act Moddi.
The Spanish part of the festival includes Rosalía, Raúl Refrëe, Rocío Márquez, the new sensation Estricnina (Juanito Makandé and Canijo de Jérez) and Macaco.
The festival regularly programs local and regional talent from the Murcia region. The artists featured this year are Perro, Ayoho, Noise Box, La Farándula and the project Fémina Project featuring the vocals of Saray Melo and Paula Marengo.
La Mar Chica, the musical section dedicated to children, has scheduled concerts by Feten Feten, Jamaikids, Malvariche and Perlita.
José Fernández Torres, son of Tomate (tomato) and grandson of Miguel Tomate, has taken the Flamenco nickname of Tomatito, the little tomato.
He was born in Almería in 1958, in southeastern Spain, surrounded by Flamenco guitars and the influence of his father and grandfather who were both accomplished musicians. As if this wasn’t enough, he is the nephew of the legendary tocaor (guitar player) Niño Miguel.
When he was 12 years old Tomatito moved from Almería to the southern city of Málaga, where he started his musical career playing in tablaos (flamenco nightclubs). It was at the famous Taberna gitana where Tomatito met two flamenco legends, guitarist Paco de Lucia and singer Camaron de la Isla, at the age of 15. Camaron, then 24, liked Tomatito’s guitar playing style and asked him to play with him.
Tomatito had to get his family’s approval to become Camaron’s accompanist. He was still a teenager and Camaron’s tours traveled the whole world. His father finally gave him permission. A few years later, when Paco de Lucia quit playing with Camaron, Tomatito and Camaron became the perfect duo, giving passionate fiery performances. Until Camaron’s death, they never separated from each other.
Camaron’s tragic death in 1992 was a serious blow to Tomatito. They had performed together for 20 years and Tomatito’s career was directly associated with the legendary singer. His first thought was to quit making music to become a traveling merchant, like many other Gypsies. Tomatito was not confident that the Flamenco fans were still interested in him and he was ready to quit forever. But one day he got a call from a promoter that asked him to be the opening act for Elton John’s Spanish tour in 1992. Camaron’s death was still fresh in his memory and Tomatito was uneasy about playing in such a large stage since he had never played as a soloist before. But he made up his mind and the audience’s response was very positive. Tomatito was offered more gigs and his confidence grew, becoming comfortable as a soloist with a unique guitar style.
Tomatito has recorded several solo CDs and collaborations with Dominican jazz pianist Michel Camilo. He also appears as guest on numerous Flamenco albums. In addition to recording and performing, Tomatito has also participated in several motion picture scores. He appeared in the movie Devil’s Advocate and composed music for the German film “Bin Inch Schoen” directed by Doris Doerrie. He is also an avid collector of world music and jazz.
Tomatito has become a soloist of major significance within the realm of the Flamenco guitar. His particular approach to both the traditional and festive forms highlights his unprecedented musical sensitivity and interpretative power. Young singers line up to record an album with him and young guitarists sweat on his falsetas. He is one of the pioneers of modern flamenco and considers flamenco to be an open kind of music. “But flamenco can’t go in other directions, because then it stops being flamenco.”
The Tomatito family tradition continued on his 2001 release, Paseo de los Castaños. It features one of Tomatito’s five daughters, María Angeles, a 13 year old at the time, who did some of the singing. Tomatito returned to his flamenco roots, playing tangos, soleá, bulerías and a taranta, but his world music interests were still present with a Turkish song, an Argentine tango chord in of his soleás and a rumba accompanied by American jazz musician George Benson.
By themselves, pianist Michel Camilo and Tomatito represent the best of their instruments, combining unmatched technical ability with natural musical sensibility. As a duo, they create music that blends jazz-infused sounds of the Caribbean with the flamenco music of Spain.
The first meeting between the two musicians was at a recording session in the early 199s. In 1998, the Barcelona Jazz Festival asked the duo to perform a duet tribute to the late Spanish hard bop pianist Tete Montoliu. By the end of 1999, they had played over forty concerts together, and soon a studio album was made. The album, Spain, received much critical acclaim, and was followed up in 25 by the successful Spain Again (released in 2006 the United States).
Recording the new album proved to be exciting for Camilo: “It gave me so much joy to see that the magic is still there after all these years.”
Camilo noted that he was thrilled to see how they both have evolved as artists. “The musical horizons we travel together on this recording are close to our hearts. It was so amazing to see how after we shared our personal feelings for each song, we simply enjoyed the self-discovery process by letting the music tell us where it wanted to flow.” The eleven track album includes original compositions, a tribute to Astor Piazzolla, jazz standards and a collaboration with renowned singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra on “Amor de Conuco.”
Spain Forever (Universal Music Spain) was released in 2016. The duo recorded tributes to their favorite artists such as Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti, bassist Charlie Haden, Astor Piazzolla, Erik Satie, Ennio Morricone, Django Reinhardt, and a few others.
Tomatito’s children continue the flamenco tradition of the family. His son is guitarist José del Tomate and his daughter María Ángeles is a flamenco singer.