Various: Calle 54 (2001)
The album only contains personal picks by Calle 54 Director and long-time Latin Jazz aficionado Fernando Trueba. Lucky for us. His taste proves impeccable. Like Buena Vista Social Club, the soundtrack celebrates the new accessibility of Cuban musicians to American audiences first manifested in the return of Irakere in 1996 after an 18 year exile in Cuba during which two of its members, D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval, immigrated to America.
Paquito D’Rivera starts the soundtrack with a performance that I can only describe as epic. The name of the tune, Panamerica, sums it up rather perfectly. It includes several different Latin styles and provides a fitting overture to the album. For me, however, the highlight of this album is the beautiful piano solo from Chucho Valdez called "Caridad Amaro." Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor, Vince Guaraldi, and McCoy Tyner all bubble to the surface during this performance. These influences however are merely gurgles in the reserve of his unique percussive style. Another highlight is the update of the old Machito vehicle "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite" by Chico O’Farill. Of course Buddy Rich and Charlie Parker don’t grace this remake, but it’s still a wonderful version if not definitive. The original version of this song can be found on Chico O’Farill’s Cuban Blues on Verve. Other highlights include mambo veterans Cachao and Bebo Valdez contributing the traditional Lagrimas Negras, the brilliant young pianist Michel Camilo on "From Within," and father and son Bebo and Chucho Valdez closing out the set with La Comparasa.
It would be difficult to find a better introduction to modern Latin Jazz, even though this album does not have the same aura of "discovery" that Buena Vista did. However, It is still makes for a very effective introduction to some important musicians particularly for the uninitiated. If already familiar with these musicians, pick up the album for some great cuts. I look forward to seeing the movie.
Track Listing: 1. Panamerica by Paquito D
Personnel: Various Artists
Record Label: Blue Note Records