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Michael Halsband
Michel Camilo is a jazz pianist.

On Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Capitol Theatre, Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Michel Camilo launches the 2017-18 Jazz SLC series with his energetic Caribbean rhythms and jazz harmonies. Joining Camilo on stage will be drummer and percussionist Cliff Almond and double bassist and bass guitarist Lincoln Goines.

Gordon Hanks, founder of the jazz series, invited Camilo to open the season because of his explosive energy and innovative jazz.

“Michel is one of our favorite musicians to bring to Salt Lake," Hanks said. "He’s high-energy, and we never know what he’s going to bring to the stage. It’s like opening up a surprise package, and it’s always a gift.”

“Do you remember the last time I was here I told Gordon and the audience I wanted to come to Salt Lake and play with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall?” Camilo said in a phone interview. “Well, they haven’t contacted me and I’ve completed a second and third symphony.”

Feigning disappointment, Camilo added, “And I’m still waiting for that invitation.”

Camilo is not joking in his desire to perform with the Utah Symphony. At the age of 5, Camilo wrote his first piano composition and by the time he was 16, he was a member of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Admittedly, the problem for Camilo would be finding the time to partner up with the Utah Symphony.

“I was incredibly busy this last year, and next year is shaping up the same way,” he said.

Before his Salt Lake concert, Camilo finished a solo piano concert in Denmark, a trio and big band performance in Vienna, the International Jazz Festival in Barcelona, and four sold-out performances at Japan’s Blue Note in Tokyo.

“And that was just in the month of November,” he said. “Sometimes, I think I should slow down a bit, but then I think of something Oscar Peterson once said, ‘Now is the time to do everything put in front of you. You’ve got to use your power while you can.’”

Camilo has taken that advice to heart and follows his visit to Salt Lake City with two performances with the Detroit Symphony orchestra in a world premiere of Camilo’s "Concerto for Jazz Trio and Orchestra," then to Istanbul to perform with one his favorite artists, Spanish Flamenco guitarist Tomatito, followed by concerts in Vienna and San Francisco.

Wherever and whenever Camilo plays, the audience can be certain his music will reflect his love of life and his passion for the exploration of the world around him.

If you go …

What: Michel Camilo Trio

When: Saturday, Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

Web: artsaltlake.org

Phone: 801-355-2787

How much: $29.50 for general, $10 with student ID

Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.