Piano and guitar, the most popular and most played musical instruments across the globe, ranked number one and two, respectively, on most every list I found. Here we have jazz pianist, Michel Camilo, and flamenco guitarist, Tomatito, joining forces to dazzle us with their virtuosity, and even better, their musicality. As always, it’s a task to find ways to describe the music. When you have two masters of their craft, both technicians as good as it gets, and both artists as expressive and individual as it gets, there’s not much to say—there’s nothing to criticize. Their first intercourse on record shows off an alliance of like minds, in synch, or to use a late midcentury cliché, on the same wavelength. Their second album is a seamless continuation. This music is good for background playing, but that’s not fair to you or the music. Put it front and center, give it your full attention, and time collapses. Shut out the world, turn down the lights, close your eyes and their musical conversations will float you down the waters of the Lethe.
A mi Niño José
Fuga y Misterio
Both of these CDs are studio recordings—well done studio recordings. They are so clean that the first time I listened I thought, “That’s a beautiful piano, sounds like a Steinway.” Indeed it is. The Hamburg Steinway model D Michel is provided for both sessions is a glorious instrument. Its sound is resonant, smooth, and powerful. The recordings also capture Tomatito’s rich guitar sound and energetic fingering. And although Spain was recorded in 1999, at Carriage House Studios in Stamford, CT, and Spain Again was recorded six and a half years later in 2006 at the Avatar Studios in New York City, they sound exceptionally consistent. There’s good reason. Whether by plan or luck, the recording, mixing, and mastering on both were done by the same person, Phil Magnotti. Significant time and space differences, yet so skillfully similar that you can mix the cuts from one to the other and not hear a discrepancy in the sound quality. Initially I gave the recordings a grade B, cut from an A for too much artificial reverb and an unclear stereo image. I believe a combination of close miking and more than two mikes was used. There is a trade-off made with this technique—the loss of true stereo imaging is given up for the clarity and control of close miking. The music is so good, the recordings so precise, I almost felt regret for giving it a B rating, but for too much reverb, admittedly a personal call, I stand. The more intimate sound of drier, less reverberant spaces and recordings, especially with small groups, the sound you might hear in a neighborhood club’s home-like space, I strongly prefer. You’ll note, though, the rating below ultimately has been dropped to a C minus. That further cut is for dynamic compression. It makes me wonder, how spectacular were these recordings before compression?
(||) Rating — Music : A ║ Performance : A+ ║ Recording : C- ║ Michel Camilo & Tomatito, Spain, Verve, 2000; Spain Again, Universal Music International, 2006