For the Love of Jazz

When deposed Miami Film Festival director Nat Chediak introduced his friend, famed Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba, to Latin jazz music many years ago via a Paquito D'Rivera record, Trueba, like Chediak before him, was hooked, ensnared in a net of sound that became a personal and professional passion. Their association has yielded Chediak's Spanish-language Diccionario de Jazz Latino released in 1998, and a Latin jazz radio show, Manteca, that airs weekly on stations all over the world, including Miami's WDNA-FM (88.9). In 2001 their collaboration reached the silver screen with Calle 54 (Chediak served as associate producer), which premiered appropriately at the Miami Film Festival. A love letter to the genre, Calle 54, Spanish for the West 54th Street studio in New York City where it was shot, features a series of uncut performances by a slew of Latin jazz greats, among them Tito Puente, Chico O'Farrill, Bebo and Chucho Valdés, and, of course, Paquito D'Rivera. On Thursday Chediak returns to his old haunt, Coral Gables' Cinematheque (now the Absinthe House Cinematheque), to close the Jazz Film Festival. He'll introduce Calle 54 and companion piece Calle 54 -- Side B, which offers interviews and history. New Times spoke to Chediak about movies, music, and the future.

New Times: What did you think when Trueba told you he was making this movie?

Nat Chediak: This was the most difficult thing; he had trouble finding financing. A movie about Latin jazz? Are you kidding? This isn't J. Lo or Ricky Martin or Marc Anthony, this is the real thing. I thought he was crazy!

Did you have to come up with money as associate producer?

No, no. I'm having enough trouble coming up [with money] for lunch! [Actually part of his function was to keep a diary of the filming for a coffee table book recently published in Spain, and providing commentary for a soon-to-be-released DVD version of the movie.]

What was your favorite thing about the film?

The film is incredibly pure, and I mean that as the highest form of praise. Fernando's devotion to the music comes across by the attention he lavishes on its depiction, on its creation. You actually see and hear the music come alive.

What are you planning to do next?

I have a lot of things in mind. They are mostly music-related, and if film comes into the picture, it will be through the music, not through film itself. You will hear from me -- hopefully in more ways than one.