When discussing present day jazz-based piano trios, Michel Camilo’s group most assuredly resides within the upper echelon of such matters. With this 2-CD set recorded at New York City’s renowned "Blue Note" venue, the trio embarks upon a musical seek and destroy mission. In addition, this album signifies Camilo’s first live recording. Essentially, Camilo, bassist Charles Flores and the unbelievably talented drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez instill new meaning to the oft-used descriptor, "twist, turns, peaks, and valleys." They even have some fun with the standard, "Happy Birthday," but it’s largely about, exacerbating Latin-Jazz, refitted with a contemporary vibe.
You’d swear there were two drummers here. Simply put, Hernandez’ deft polyrhythmic attack is somewhat awe-inspiring. As he handles the knotty time signatures with complexly, sweeping rolls amid a hodgepodge of rim shots, cross-sticking maneuvers, and explosive fills. The band’s precision oriented demeanor is perhaps akin to a finely tuned sports car. Hence, a blazing exposition of jazzy motifs embedded with Afro-Cuban rhythms, torrid swing vamps, and the pianist’s rippling arpeggios. To that end, Flores is the rock solid anchor throughout this incredibly vibrant set. (A top pick for 2003!)