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Berklee professors delve into classics

The Berklee College of Music showed off its brand-name faculty Wednesday night with spectacular solo and duet performances by pianist Michel Camilo and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano -- the college's Herb Alpert Visiting Professor and the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance, respectively.

The occasion was a fund-raising concert for a new Michel Camilo Scholarship, to be presented this year to a student from Camilo's native Dominican Republic. Camilo came onstage to announce the scholarship and the solo-and-duet theme, and Lovano then walked on blowing the tenor on his tune ''Sanctuary Park," to begin his solo segment.

Lovano played the entire evening with a breathiness a la Ben Webster, perhaps owing to the absence of other instruments obscuring his sound. It lent a romantic edge to Lovano's refined explorations of assorted themes.

Next up was another Lovano original, ''Fort Worth," followed by an unusual take on his own ''On This Day," with Lovano accompanying himself by striking a group of eight gongs with a mallet in his right hand, while fingering his tenor with his left.

He closed out his solo segment with luscious reads of two classics: Thelonious Monk's ''Pannonica" and John Coltrane's ''Crescent," both explored on the forthcoming Lovano quartet CD ''Joyous Encounter," due from Blue Note in May.

Camilo returned to the stage for his solo set, which opened with a medley of tunes from his January 2005 release, ''Solo": Antonio Carlos Jobim's ''Luiza" and Francis Hime's ''Minha." Camilo's playing has a classical feel, making full use of his left hand and exhibiting phenomenal control of dynamics. Thunderous chords yielded seamlessly to exquisitely soft passages, and a stupendous end to the medley earned Camilo a standing ovation.

He followed it with George Gershwin's ''Our Love Is Here to Stay," which had a bluesy, stride-like feel to it, before closing out his set with the melancholy ballad ''From Within."

Their duet set began with an abstract reading of Wayne Shorter's already abstract ''Footprints." Lovano grooved animatedly to Camilo's solo after finishing his own, and throughout it was obvious how much fun the two were having improvising together.

Lovano especially outdid himself on ''Blue Monk," and the two of them made Coltrane's classic ''Giant Steps" their own -- Lovano blowing fast but nothing like Coltrane, and Camilo giving the piece some Latin flavor, both rhythmically and harmonically.

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