A behind the scenes glimpse into the lives of Grammy Award winner Tito Puente and some of the greatest Latin musicians of our times! Experience the passion of Latin Jazz. It is a musical journey that captures the heart and... more » soul of an entire culture. It is an innovative tapestry of sound and imagery, styles and rhythms-from samba to pambiche to flamenco.« less
Not just a Latin jazz film, but an awesome jazz movie!
J. Book | Pasco, WA United States | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a fan of Latin jazz, or jazz music in general, you're going to have to make this a mandatory DVD to add to your collection. It is not so much a documentary as it is a showcase for the talent and creativity among Latin jazz musicians. The "documentary" portions are limited to quick glimpses of various musicians talking about their music, what it means to them, or why certain places offer so much inspiration.But then we get to see the music, full-length performances that are beautifully shot and edited. If you enjoy the overall look of the performances on the "Sessions At West 54th" show, you will enjoy this as each of the liver performances were done in the same NYC studio.There is so much great music to absorb, from Gato Barbieri's big band, to the late Tito Puente showing us why he was always a showmen right up until the end. Chucho Valdes goes to Cuba and talks about his father raising him with the music as a child. Later on, we see his father Bebo perform with a longtime friend. We then see a meeting between Bebo and Chucho, who haven't seen each other in years. When the perform together, you can see a father who loves his son so much, and a son who is very thankful for what his father has given to him. Eliane Elias is here with her trio, but sadly we don't get to hear her sing (or speak for that matter).The best section of this DVD is where legendary Cuban conga player Patato plays with a group of musicians in front of two dancers, who proceed to tease each other with the music and their interpretive dance. You can sense the tension in the air through the dance, but in time they eventually get what they both want from each other, and everyone is happy."Calle 54" is reminiscent of older music films from the 60's, when artists were presented in this manner years before there was ever such a thing as a music video or pay-per-view concerts. The performances are top notch, and it's impossible not to tap your fingers or dance in your seat. This is the side of jazz Ken Burns' sadly overlooked, but one that is very important in jazz's rich history."
10 times better than Buena Vista film
sebastiand | NY, USA | 08/08/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"OK, let's pretend for a second that you had never heard Latin Jazz before. Perhaps you're from Mars, or you were born in the late 80's, or you live in the rural U.S. and don't have a satellite hook-up.
Well, get ready, because this is going to blow you away!
This is the good stuff-the best of the very best of Latin Jazz, from the roots. Although it skips around radically between very different styles, all the music is outstanding. The narration is very understated (at times I wish there was more of a historical perspective, or interviews with some of the artists to explain more of their backgrounds). But the subtlety of this film makes you hold your breath at times.
My only complaint (and why I can't make it a perfect score) is the director's decisions on cuts--a musician just wants more of the music. You just want to the camera to linger one more moment on Elaine Elias' hands, not her face. You want to see Cachao do that run in close-up. You want to see Puntilla's group perform a few more numbers--and this time don't cut away during the solos.
All in all, this video is superb, and all I can say is there is nothing like it. This is what Buena Vista Social Club SHOULD have been, times 10.
Get it--you'll love it, and like me, watch it over and over."
The Best Music You'll Ever See
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 01/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At the insistence of a friend, I began watching this movie, thinking I'd sample a little bit here and there (Afro-Cuban music, Salsa, etc. can be loud and repetitious). Forget it. The film is absolutely addictive and intoxicating, building to the kind of musical climax normally associated with a Bach B Minor Mass or a Verdi Requiem or a Strauss Domestic Symphony.Indeed, the film has a "script" along with cinematic-editing virtuosity, but the testimony to the power of both is that from the viewer's perspective the music itself soon becomes the only narrative. I've seen all of the great "jazz" films--Jazz on a Summer's Day, Bird, Round Midnight--and none comes close to offering the rich experience of this film. But this is far more than a unique film about jazz, or Latin jazz, or Latin music. I can't imagine even the most devoted follower of the classical music scene not being captivated by its sounds and images. In fact, if the film has a "star," it's the Steinway piano, which has never been more beautifully filmed and recorded (be sure to view the DVD with a good audio system, minus a sub-woofer). The instrument becomes an Excalibur whose power comes alive only in the most privileged hands (in this case, about 6 different pairs).Sadly, a film like this would not be made by an American, an irony it shares with Bernard Tavernier's poignant "Round Midnight." No matter. It's an event to be cherished."
Absolutely wonderful...Awsome production values!
Tom Sanders | Lansing, Mi United States | 11/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great disc! The visual quality is as good as any DVD out there, the sound seems even better than the sound track CD, and behind it all is the music. What wonderful music it is, full of artists that are legendary and a few I had not heard of. There are such gems to discover in this film, from the stunning flute solos of Dave Valentin to the beautifully understated piano of Elaine Elias to the poetic and magical scenes featuring Bebo Valdes. The last scene with both Chuchu and Bebo Valdes rises to such a poetic level that it brought tears to my eyes as I watched it. This is must-see viewing (ans listening), not only for lovers of Latin Jazz, but for anyone who loves Jazz in any way!"
Will make you addicted to Latin Jazz
Manny Hernandez | Bay Area, CA | 10/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the opening remark by Trueba, you are hooked: "A principio de los ochenta, un amigo me regalo un disco que complico mi vida. Me volvi un adicto al jazz latino." (At the beginning of the eighties, a friend gave me an album that complicated my life. I became addicted to Latin Jazz.)
Having read his introductory words, you may understand why the comparison between Fernando Trueba's "Calle 54" and Wim Wenders' "Buena Vista Social Club" is not only unfit but also unfair to both movies. While "Buena Vista..." focuses on a handful of Cuban legends, many of whom continued to make great classic Latin music in the island in spite of the passing of time, "Calle 54" introduces the viewer to how Latin music was embraced and transformed by a number of musical geniuses across the continent to give shape to what would later be known as Latin Jazz.
Well known Paquito D'Rivera, Tito Puente, Bebo (and Chucho) Valdez, along with Gato Barbieri and many others showcase their brilliance and sense of innate connection with the genre's roots, while keeping an exquisite balance with the essence of jazz: improvisation. D'Rivera throws in a Venezuelan "cuatro" (a small form of a four-string guitar) into a "sabrosa" mix of metals and latin percussion. A nostalgic Baribieri comes across as a Miles Davis playing sax to latin rhythms. Puente introduces us to the fathers of Latin Jazz through the murals in his restaurant, while Valdez puts his heart into it all with his impeccable piano performance. Then again, some more improv, a fusion of Flamenco and Jazz -the miracle (as Trueba puts it) that Chano Dominguez accomplishes, blending Thelonius Monk and Camaron de la Isla. Eliane Elias hypnotyzing the listener with her beauty and her exquisite blend of bossa and jazz...
There is so much to "Calle 54" that hours of writing about it would never do it justice. Trueba, a storyteller at heart, and a convinced fan of the genre, tells the tale of this exquisite music for those that are familiar with it, and to help guide by the hand those who don't into the fate that he ran into over twenty years ago: becoming addicted to Latin Jazz."