Ask a lover of Spanish cinema what Spain's equivalent of Hollywood is, and the obvious response will be Madrid; most of Spain's top actors and directors are based in Spain's largest city. Barcelona, meanwhile, is the city that dominates the Spanish porn industry; if Madrid is Spain's Hollywood, Barcelona is Spain's San Fernando Valley. But some excellent non-porn movies have been filmed (or partly filmed) in Barcelona, ranging from Pedro Almodóvar's Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) to American director Whit Stillman's clever Barcelona. Stillman isn't the only American director who has filmed in Barcelona; the capitol of Cataluña (or Catalunya in Catalan) is where Woody Allen filmed his romantic comedy/drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona (starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Scarlett Johansson). In the liner notes, Allen explains that this soundtrack called for Spanish music but candidly admits that Spanish music isn't something he is terribly knowledgeable about. However, Allen obviously did his research, and the recordings that he chose are excellent. Although this 42-minute disc contains two sensuous vocal offerings by the Barcelona-based group Giulia y los Tellarini ("Barcelona" and "La Ley del Retiro"), most of the soundtrack focuses on instrumental flamenco guitar – specifically, flamenco of the nuevo flamenco variety.
Pianist Larry Vuckovich has recorded in a variety of settings in his career, ranging from swing to music that reflects his roots in Eastern Europe. Street Scene is one of his finest showcases for it puts the focus on Vuckovich's skills on the piano in a trio that on four selections is augmented by one or two Latin percussionists. The Latin pieces, which include "As Time Goes by Mambo" and "Blue Bohemia Suite," are particularly infectious. The trio numbers, which include standards, a few obscurities (including Sonny Clark's "News for Lulu") and some originals by the pianist, are swinging, boppish, and inventive, attached to the tradition but not predictable. With stimulating support from bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Akira Tana, this is an easily enjoyable and recommended release from one of San Francisco's finest jazz pianists.