Author: John Frederick Moore
The solo recording is a rite of passage for any pianist. But on this effort from Joey Calderazzo, best known lately for his work as a member of Branford Marsalis’ group, he’s at his best when he gets a little help from his friends.
An intense and lyrical musician, Calderazzo explores a variety of styles on these nine tracks. He’s nothing if not ambitious, even if that ambition sometimes comes at a price. Selections such as the stride-influenced “Midnight Voyage” and the somewhat abstract “Toonay” are full of impressive two-handed technique and imagination—but not much emotional depth. In most cases, Calderazzo is better off on ballads such as “Sea Glass” and the Bill Evans classic “Waltz for Debby,” which he effectively deconstructs without discarding its melodic beauty.
But it’s when Calderazzo teams up with guitarist Romero Lubambo and vocalist Claudia Acuña that this disc really shines. On these collaborations, Calderazzo lays aside some of his more excessive impulses and focuses on a song’s melodic core.
The interplay of Lubambo’s rhythmic chords with Calderazzo’s melancholic single-note phrases on the samba-tinged “The Lonely Swan” is perfectly balanced. And Acuña lifts the emotional intensity on all three songs on which she appears. Her wordless vocals on “Lara,” in particular, add a dreamy dimension to an already lovely melody.
There’s plenty of beauty to be found on this disc—mostly when Calderazzo realizes that a little less can go a long way.