R5 Top 5: Michel Camilo

Michel Camilo of Bedford began his professional jazz career at age 16 when he joined the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, his home country. Since then, he has studied at Mannes and Juilliard, performed at a myriad of venues and festivals, and accumulated a Grammy award, an Emmy award, two Latin Grammy awards, and four Grammy nominations. Here, Camilo shares, with “much difficulty,” his five favorite jazz albums.


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Photo by Michael A. Black

1) Kind of Blue – Miles Davis (Columbia, 1959) “This is the quintessential jazz album,” Camilo says. “It is the number-one instrumental jazz bestseller of all time, and it is definitely a great place to start listening to the music.”
2) A Love Supreme – John Coltrane (Impulse! 1964) “This is a four-part journey into Coltrane’s deep beliefs and gratitude for God,” Camilo says. “You get to hear the evolution of John Coltrane both as a human being and as a creative artist, backed by some of the best jazz musicians ever.”


3) Afro – Dizzy Gillespie (Verve, 1954) On this album, Dizzy Gillespie defines the “Cubop” or “Afro-Cuban” jazz genre that evolved into the Latin jazz of today. Camilo says this album “represents the perfect blending of Big Band charts with Afro-Cuban percussion and impeccable ensemble playing.”

4) Time Out – Dave Brubeck (Columbia, 1959) With the famous “Take Five” track, this was the first jazz album to break onto the Billboard pop charts. “Dave Brubeck opened a new door to all the rhythmic possibilities by experimenting with different, odd meters,” Camillo says. “He still was able to keep the music swinging in a cool, special way which attracted a much wider audience to jazz.”

5) Everybody Digs Bill Evans – Bill Evans (Riverside, 1958) “A great introduction to one of the most important jazz pianists of all time. It’s refreshing to listen to him swinging so hard just before he came up with yet a new concept which contributed the impressionistic colors of Debussy, Ravel, and Satie to modern jazz.”

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