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Michel Camilo

In many ways, jazz has ceased to be a genre of musical exploration and become a genre of personal expression. While in the early to mid-20th century jazz was a growing art form that saw new styles and new vocabularies emerge every year, today's jazz artists try less to push the boundaries of the idiom and more with to communicate eloquently in the established language of the genre. Jazz has become more and more an introspective art form (though it always was introspective, at least since bop hit the scene). It's an art of eccentricities.

And in this landscape you have two players: those who have learned the language and moved in and those who are indigenous and have always lived there. Michel Camilo is definitely a native resident and it's easy to hear. Growing up in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, he fell in love with the music of the early jazz legends, especially piano virtuoso Art Tatum.

Camilo brings his Latin American upbringing to his music, and while his range and influences clearly extend beyond Latin jazz, that may be where he's most at home. Since his 1988 self-titled debut album, he's released 11 solo albums and performed on dozens of others. Now, approaching 50, his maturity shows.

In his latest offering, 2002's Triangulo, Camilo leads a small three-piece in a recording reminiscent of Chick Corea's Akoustic Band. Camilo has always been most comfortable with small groups like this one; after you listen to "Piece of Cake," we think you'll agree.

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