Though he has recorded in many different contexts before, from duets to trios to big bands, Michel Camilo has released only one solo piano outing in his long career up to now, 2005's Solo, which revealed in intimate detail his tactile, technical facility. What's Up? is a few steps down the road. Comprised of seven originals and four covers, this date showcases the composer and pianist's love of harmony, texture, color, and rhythmic invention in performing solo jazz piano. Camilo is a wily and rangy player; he embraces the jazz piano tradition throughout this date, and extends it with Latin and classical music He opens with boogie and stride in the title cut; it's punchy, knotty, joyous, and swinging -- a fine ride through Camilo's blues imagination. Following this energetic opener is the moodier "A Place in Time," with its classical nocturne feel that explores varied hues and timbres inside a minor-key arrangement. Given its ethereality and shimmering nuance, it's a fine contrast to the opener. Camilo's love of rhythms is evident in his sprightly reading of Paul Desmond's "Take Five" and his own charging Latin powerhouse "Paprika," with its wide harmonic exploration in the right-hand chord voicings and his rumbling left hand that shifts accents every chorus. His version of "Love for Sale" is playful, elegant, and canny in its deep inquiry into the melody's possibilities for extrapolation -- his solo winds it out entirely without losing its essence. His reading of Compay Segundo's "Chan Chan" is rife with Afro-Cuban rhythmic accents even as it exposes both blues and son. "On Fire" is an exercise in pure technical mastery yet despite its intense right-hand arpeggios and ostinatos, its intricate lyric statement remains amid athletic rhumba, mambo, and salsa rhythms. In his closing ballad "At Dawn," one can hear traces of both Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, as space, and lyricism -- both direct and implied -- send the recording off with an elegant whisper. What's Up? is a commanding performance by a truly masterful, wildly creative jazz pianist and composer.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek