and composer Michel Camilo was born in Santo
Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1954. Fascinated with music
since childhood, he composed his first song at the age of five,
then studied for 13 years at the National Conservatory. At 16,
he became a member of the National Symphony Orchestra.
to expand his musical horizons, Camilo moved in 1979 to New
York, where he continued his studies at Mannes and Juilliard
School of Music. “Why Not?” was recorded by Paquito D'Rivera
as the title tune for one of his albums, and The Manhattan
Transfer won a Grammy Award for their vocal version in 1983.
Camilo’s first two albums were titled Why Not? and
made his Carnegie Hall debut with his trio in 1985. Since then,
he has become a prominent figure performing regularly in the
United States, the Caribbean, Japan and Europe. December 1987
marked his debut as a classical conductor when the National
Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic invited him to
conduct a recital featuring the works of Rimsky-Korsakoff,
Beethoven, Dvorak and Camilo’s own composition, The
Goodwill Games Theme, which won an Emmy Award. That year,
he became the musical director of the Heineken Jazz Festival
in his native Dominican Republic, a post he held through 1992.
of 1988 marked his debut on a major record label with the
release of his self- titled album, Michel Camilo (Sony).
The album became an instant success and held the top jazz
album spot for eight consecutive weeks. His next recording,
On Fire, was voted one of the top three Jazz Albums of the
Year by Billboard, and 1990’s On the Other Hand
was a top-ten jazz album. All three releases reached the
number-one position in radio airplay.
list of compositions, recordings and other achievements
throughout the ‘90s is vast. His composition Caribe was
recorded by pianists Katia and Marielle Lebeque, and by the
legendary Dizzy Gillespie, in 1991. His Rhapsody for Two
Pianos and Orchestra, commissioned by the Philharmonia
Orchestra, premiered a year later at the Royal Festival Hall.
In 1993, Gavin and Billboard magazines picked his
Rendezvous as one of the top jazz albums of the year.
performed a series of piano recitals in 1996 as part of
Copenhagen’s Cultural Capital of Europe celebration, and also
debuted at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in
Washington, DC, and Carnegie Hall in New York. That same year,
he performed in Israel, Spain, México, Dominican Republic and
Switzerland, where he debuted at Zurich’s prestigious Tonhalle
concert hall as part of the Jazz Piano Masters series.
served as co-artistic director in 1998 for the first Latin-Caribbean
Music Festival at the Kennedy Center, which featured
performances by his trio and big band, as well as the world
premiere of his Piano Concerto with the National
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The following
year, he toured with Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdés, and
debuted with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.
addition to compiling an extensive discography and maintaining
a rigorous performance schedule, Camilo has composed and
recorded a number of Spanish film scores over the years, and
holds honorary degrees from his alma mater, Universidad
Autónoma de Santo Domingo, and UTESA University of Santiago,
Dominican Republic (he’s the youngest person to ever receive
the distinction from the latter school), and from Berklee
College of Music. In 1992, he was named a Knight of the
Heraldic Order of Christopher Columbus by the Dominican
the turn of the millennium, his 2000 Verve release, Spain,
with guitarist Tomatito, won Best Latin Jazz Album in the
first-ever Latin Grammy Awards. Camilo also performed in a
trio concert in 2000 presented by the New Jersey Chamber
Society with special guest Paquito D’Rivera.
2001, Camilo appeared on the soundtrack CD for the acclaimed
Latin jazz film Calle 54, directed by the Oscar-winning
Spaniard Fernando Trueba. In addition to his activities as a
composer and pianist, Camilo lectured and performed at many
festivals, universities and colleges throughout Europe and the
United States – including New York University, Berklee School
of Music, MIT, William Paterson College (in New Jersey) and
Puerto Rico Conservatory.
August 2001, Decca released in the UK his Concerto for
Piano & Orchestra, Suite for Piano, Strings and Harp & Caribe,
recorded in London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted
by Leonard Slatkin, to celebrate his debut at the BBC Proms at
the Royal Albert Hall.
November 2001, he was awarded the highest honor from the
President of the Dominican Republic: the Silver Cross of the
Order of Duarte, Sanchez & Mella.
marks a special year for Camilo with two albums: Classical and
Jazz. In February, Decca released his Concerto for Piano &
Orchestra, Suite for Piano, Strings and Harp & Caribe, to
celebrate his guest appearance with the NSO conducted by
Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
in Washington, DC.
March, Telarc released Triangulo, Camilo’s latest trio
recording, which features contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson
and drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez. Produced by Camilo,
Triangulo includes a mix of original tunes (“Piece of
Cake,” “Afterthought,” “Anthony’s Blues,” “Just Like You,”
“Descarga for Tito” and “dotcom-bustion”) along with four
compositions by other artists (Ernesto Lecuona’s “La
Comparsa,” Chano Dominguez’s “Mr. C.I.,” Dizzy Gillespie’s
“Con Alma” and Mike Manieri’s “Las Dos Lorettas”).