by Philip Booth
The performances in Calle 54, the bracing Latin-jazz concert film from noted Spanish director Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque) are so full of charm, charisma and sheer good-vibes exuberance that audiences at the Miami Film Festival clapped after every number. Patrons even cheered during several solos, notably Dominican pianist Michel Camilo’s exuberant outing on his “From Within,” also featuring the muscular support of bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.
Much of the excitement of the film, featuring the pristine sound quality afforded by recording at Sony’s New York studio mentioned in the title, is captured on this essential sound track.
Cuban-born alto saxophone and clarinet dynamo Paquito D’Rivera leads his 12-piece band with vibraphonist Dave Samuels on the opener, the anthemlike suite, “Panamericana.” Afro-Cuban and Caribbean rhythms also are at the center of the grooving, aptly titled “Earth Dance,” from trumpeter-percussionist Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, with his brother Andy on bass and Larry Willis on piano. The late Tito Puente’s “New Arrival” and Chico O’Farrill’s classic “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite” from his big band, still swings deeply modernistic. Brazil is represented by pianist Eliane Elias’ refined, passionate stroll through Baden Powell’s “Sambe Triste,” with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Satoshi Takeishi.
The selective program (Gato Barbieri and Chano Dominguez are included, but not Arturo Sandoval, Gonzalo Rubalcabo or Danilo Perez?) also features a pair of duets that may go into the history books. Bebo Valdes, the pioneering Cuban jazz pianist, hooks up with his son, the brilliant Chucho Valdes and also gets together with a collaborator from his days at the Tropicana Nightclub in Havana, legendary bassist Cachao. It’s a joy to hear the two octogenarians, in their first recording together, making all the old connections on the gentle, lilting rhythms of the classic “Lagrimas Negras.”
Calle 54, the movie and the CD, with any luck will yield a tidal wave of new attention for the genre.
E-mail Philip Booth at firstname.lastname@example.org.