A new film by Spanish director Fernando Trueba titled "Calle 54" is getting rave reviews for its dynamic blending of jazz and Latin music. It stars some of the greatest Latin jazz musicians of our time, including trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez, saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, the late percussionist Tito Puente and Dominican pianist Michel Camilo. VOA's Doug Levine spoke with Camilo about being a part of this once-in-a-lifetime jazz celebration.
Jerry Gonzalez, playing "Earth Dance" with his Fort Apache Band, was one of 12 musicians Fernando Trueba invited to perform at Sony Music studios on West 54th Street in New York City. "Calle 54," meaning 54th Street, features concert footage from those New York performances as well as scenes from concerts in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Trueba also invited his friend Michel Camilo who describes the film as Trueba's musical masterpiece.
Mr. Camilo said, "I think it's a musical banquet. First of all it's his love for the music that for so many years he's been following. And also, his love for the musicians because he knows each one of us personally. He's become a friend over the years so he knows what each musician is about. And third, for him it's a dream come true because he wanted to share this music with everybody else. Not just to keep it for himself but share to it with the audience worldwide. And what better way of doing it than getting all of his favorite musicians into the studio and have this great party for twelve days. He had a ball doing it and everybody on the set was ecstatic with the level of the musicianship and the music."
He continued, "Fernado Trueba, besides being a great film director he's also an avid jazz fan, especially a Latin jazz fan. He's got an amazing record collection. He's been following us [our careers] from the first time I was in Madrid which was at the jazz festival in 1984, and he's been following whatever we've been doing for so many years. I met him as a fan. He came to listen to us at the concert, and he had so much fun listening to the music that we stayed in touch over the years and we became very good friends."
For his part in the film, Michel Camilo contributed his mini jazz suite "From Within." "This particular piece of music has many different rhythms from different islands in the Caribbean," he said. "It starts from the Puerto Rican side, from a musical rhythm called 'danza' which is related to the danzon from Cuba. After it starts from that vein it develops in jazz changes or jazz harmony in the first solo that I play. And then right after that it lands in Cuba in a different rhythm called 'song.'" Michel Camilo's "From Within," features Anthony Jackson on bass, Horacio Hernandez on drums and Michel Camilo on piano.
"Calle 54" opened in theatres nationwide last month. The soundtrack on Blue Note Records features 12 performances by some of the best in Latin jazz, including "The Godfather of Latino Music" Tito Puente, with "New Arrival."