Michel Camilo © Ingrid Hertfelder (Ausschnitt)
He could be called a globetrotter. But Michel Camilo isn't just an intermediary between different worlds. He moves in a single world that is simultaneously home to a vast number of different things. He isn't beholden to any one musical style or genre, just to the magic of the black and white keys which he uses to ceaselessly conjure up new miracles of sound that defy categorisation.
While audiences are no longer content just to listen to one specific genre of music, performers still continue to specialise in a single genre. But for more than 30 years now, Michel Camilo has been one of those visionaries who develops new concepts that counter to musical monoculture. When the Dominican Republic-born musician made his debut in 1985 with the Latin-Jazz album «Why Not?» no-one had an inkling then of what he would go on to achieve. But the album's title itself is an invitation to take a closer listen. At the age of 16, he was a member of the national symphony orchestra of his home country. Admittedly, that may not be one of the world's top orchestras. But it was sufficient to provide him with the necessary equipment for a career as a classical concert pianist. And that was the career he continued to carve out for himself the next 10 years and more, until he asked himself: why not play a bit of jazz as well? He wasn't a jazz pianist, but a pianist who played jazz. That is not just a matter of nit-picking and hair-splitting semantics, as he has gone on to prove in countless albums and even more concerts in which he performed in a whole range of different constellations.
When Camilo turned to classical conducting in 1987, it wasn't simply a matter of changing sides, as some observers suggested at the time, but an inevitable extension of his musical field of operation. Whereas he had previously conjured up sounds using a piano keyboard, now he was doing it with entire orchestras. Does the note itself differentiate between jazz and classical music, between the fire of a Rumba band or the exquisitely chiseled sound of a chamber concert? It's the sound that makes the music and not the other way round. For Michel Camilo there is no contradiction in performing a concert on one evening with his jazz trio and the Big Band of Vienna's Volksoper and appearing the next with full symphony orchestra, only to go on to something else again later that night. For him, the boundaries between classical, jazz and folk music are not only flowing, they simply don't exist.
In this sense, the Michel Camilo evenings in the portrait series at the Wiener Konzerthaus also know no boundaries. His «One More Once» project is a more a reflection of the Latin Big Band Sound: And it's a project – one that treads a rhythmical tightrope – that is appearing for the first time in Austria. He will perform works by George Gershwin and his own compositions with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, in which he can retain the lightness of touch and the spontaneity of a jazz pianist. Another highlight of the evening promises to be the Austrian premiere of his Second Piano Concerto «Tenerife». In a duo evening with the Spanish guitarist Tomatito, Flamenco, Latin sounds and jazz will all fuse together into a chamber music multi-tasking for the 21st century. This promises to be a very special event, especially for everyone who was unable to attend the frenetically acclaimed concert in 2007. If it is not blasphemous to speak of a musical trinity: Michel Camilo combines at least three personifications of a great artist into a single perfect whole.