Saturday, October 2, 2010

SWING APPEAL

Composer and Pianist Michel Camilo
Michel, if you had denied the  audience an encore last night at Orchestra Hall in Detroit,  a riot would have erupted. Your big band had the audience that  hyped. Never in my years as a jazz journalist have I witnessed such a spectacle. You proved it is possible for a big band to swing over an hour without coming up for air.  A man seated next to me commented an audience has  to be in  shape to endure a Michel Camilo  concert.  The performance last night exceeded expectation. It would have been impossible to fail with natural born swingers such as Antonio Hart, Gary Smulyan and Conrad Herwig participation. Surely, the crowd appreciated you prefacing each composition with what inspired it.  On “Dream Light” and “On the Other Hand”, the band had a Count Basie-esque swing ethic. The  second set,  I figured you would coast by playing a few ballads, but you increased the swing, starting  with a funky Calypso composition, and then playing “Just Kidding”, blending elements of classical, ragtime, and Caribbean music. Michel, you  have the stamina of a tri-athlete. I heard the Maria Schneider Orchestra a month ago at the Detroit jazz fest. The orchestra was superb , and I wondered if any working jazz big band could rival that orchestra’s intensity. Your big band came really close.

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