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Calle 54 Calle 54

You may be won over by the smooth, sensual sounds of Latin Jazz after watching Calle 54 a vibrant musical labor of love for the director of Belle Epoque, Fernando Trueba.  It serves as a worthy companion piece to Wim Wenders' The Buena Vista Social Club as the music does much more talking than the people as Trueba's musicians are given plenty of latitude.

Paquito Rivera made the award-winning Spanish director a Latin Jazz aficionado, and the way he brought together his favorite musicians near the end of his film Two Much instilled the formula for Calle 54.

The outstanding talents on display here begin with a strong number called "Panamericana" by Paquito and his band.  Next is barefoot pianist Eliane Elias, as the Sao Paulo native heads a trio with "Samba Taste," and Chano Dominguez is a Spanish pianist who astutely melds the flamenco and jazz elements into his presentation.

Perhaps the most memorable tune in Calle 54 is by Michel Camilo's group called "From Within" and the well known movie-score saxophone player Gato Barbieri follows with a funny line about his decline nearly 20 years ago.  This amazing Latin Jazz senior personality is like a grand Elton John in appearance with big sunglasses, colorful scarves, and fedora.

One of the highlights of Calle 54 is the chance to see the wonderful artist Tito Puente (who passed away in June 2000) as he fills his time with wit and emotion that even Trueba may not have expected.  In a snazzy white suit, his expressions and facial mannerisms give the conga player a heavenly aura.

There are others that offer rewards to viewers who see the likes of Jerry Gonzalez labeled the "poete maudit of jazz" with his wounded fingers playing congas and trumpet in "Earth Dance" with his Fort Apache Band.

Unlike The Buena Vista Social Club, Trueba has shot Calle 54 in a New York City sound stage using lush color schemes, to enhance lighting and his flashy editing work underscores the diversity on hand.  The music in some ways praises the giants like Dizzy Gillespie, but Barbieri and Camilo aren't your ordinary Latin Jazz musicians.

Trueba winsomely adorns this fine musicians who aren't exposed personally or from the four continents from which they have traveled to play in front of the camera.  Yet, it's their music which resonates with a scintillating force that makes Calle 54 a spirited documentary that is right at home during many hot summer nights.

 
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