Michel Camilo & Tomatito have been gathering each other for more than 30 years in an almost predestined way. They first met back in 1984 at Madrid´s Sports Hall dressing rooms, during the city´s Jazz Festival. Michel was the pianist of Paquito D'Rivera´s Quintet while Tomtit was guest artist of Puerto Rican percussionist Ray Barretto. They came across each other but yet did not hang out. Then they met again in 1990, when Michel was producing Ketama’s album Pa’gente con alma (Philips, 1991). At that time, they were working on different projects but Tomatito recalls feeling really intrigued by the sounds he heard from the adjacent recording studio.
It was at the 1998 Barcelona International Jazz Festival and thanks to their invitation to collaborate that both artists finally performed two songs together at the Palau de la Música which were later featured in their celebrated first album, Spain (Lola Records, 2000): Chick Corea´s "Spain" and the Mexican standard by Consuelito Velázquez, "Bésame mucho".
Their amazing performance was both hailed by critics and public who enthusiastically shared their enjoyment, cementing both artists willingness to take the challenge of embarking on a project together.
As one of the most praised contemporary music duos tells us, the beginning was not easy. Guitar and piano had not traditionally merged in fruitful alliances due to the preconception that these instruments’ sonorities would not jell. Michel Camilo & Tomatito overcame that prejudice with absolute respect for each other´s sound and instrument, eventually creating a new canon. Aroused by each other´s performance, each other´s search of spaces and their mutual delicacy in building harmonies, they both agreed to record Spain selecting the finest repertoire which served as the perfect tip on what their next installment artscape would take them: Latin sounds, Jazz, Flamenco and Cinema were the 4 cornerstones of such a seminal record.
The resultant international tour in support of the album was a stunning audience and critical success on each and every stage of the 5 continents they performed, becoming also the catalyst for its natural follow up, Spain Again (Emarcy / Universal, 2006). Michel Camilo & Tomatito tested their future repertoire by introducing new songs in their live performances every night without prior notice. Subsequently, Spain Again features, after the public granted a warming welcome, an Astor Piazzola´s rendition (with a long suite dedicated to the Argentinian composer), an homage to the finest Latin songs ("El día que me quieras"), as well as to the Classic Jazz standards ("Stella by Starlight") and obviously a wink to the responsible for much of it all, Chick Corea ("La fiesta"). As they had done previously, also this time around Michel Camilo & Tomatito started working on testing their repertoire live for their next release (the latest stage of their saga).
In Spain Forever (Universal Music Spain, 2016) there is a relevant aesthetic quality that differs from their previous works. There is a calmer tone to it that radiates from the deeper knowledge of a long time relationship. The duo’s language is wiser, there are more silences, more pauses and there is respect for the individual space but also the aim for more complexity in the shared grounds. Almost 20 years have passed and Spain Forever keeps good track of it like a rear view mirror snapshot of the two starring characters. Michel Camilo & Tomtito open the new album with a personal homage paid to one of their favourite artists, Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti, making a lyrical version of his classic "Agua e vinho". The next tribute to the late double bass player Charlie Haden takes the form of an intimate rendition of his "Our Spanish Love Song". And then the Spain Again link is settled with a dramatically beautiful cover of the notorious Astor Piazzolla´s milonga "Oblivion" with an almost orchestral arrangement. Erik Satie´s "Gnossienne no 1" opens the repertoire to the Mediterranean Sea in an Arabic style of melodic originality as minimalistic as impressionistic.
When revisiting Cinema Paradiso´s musical themes, Camilo and Tomatito chose an atmospheric sea mood with the aim to bring the Mediterranean lights palette and colors into the score. As a search of their personal imprint, their version is an improvisation of the famous love song full of spaces and freedom (with original music by Ennio Morricone). One of the album surprises is the track "Nuages" by jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Tomatito is a self confessed admirer and Michel is an early jazz piano or stride piano connoisseur (Scott Joplin, but also the later versions done by Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson) making a smart and rhythmic signature version of a classic jazz manouche. "Manhã de Carnaval" (Luiz Bonfá / Antônio Maria) is the central theme of the famous film Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959): Camilo and Tomatito departed from Paco de Lucia's notorious version (along with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola) and carried it from there towards a more melancholic land, rich of harmonies inspired by the romantic day after Rio de Janeiro´s Carnival- music and photography. “About you" is an original lullaby penned by Michel Camilo that proves to fit perfectly on a carnival´s tail- a quiet chilling space, a track where Tomatito shows his skills as a flamenco master on classical guitar.
Then the ending number for the 3rd installment, which is a tribute to one of the saga forerunners: "Armando's Rumba", an original by Chick Corea dedicated to his father, which the duo kicks in stillness till a sudden mid-stream burst of rhythm and fire exploding uncompromisingly while blending Flamenco & Latin Jazz as a perfect ending to the 3rd chapter of the Spain trilogy... But, who knows?
We can´t but wait that Michel Camilo & Tomatito shall want to try yet a new repertoire before worldwide audiences in this brand new tour so that the seeds for their future new work would bloom at the right time. The door is still open.
1. Água E Vinho (Egberto Gismonti)
2. Our Spanish Love Song (Charlie Haden)
3. Oblivion (Astor Piazzola)
4. Gnoissienne No. 1 (Erik Satie)
5. Cinema Paradiso (Ennio Morricone)
6. Love Theme Cinema Paradiso (Ennio Morricone)
7. Nuages (Django Reindhart)
8. Manhã de Carnaval (Black Orpheus) (Luiz Bonfá)
9. About You (Michel Camilo)
10. Armando’s Rhumba (Chick Corea
Michel Camilo, piano
Tomatito, spanish guitar