Review: Duo's music is 'pure artistry'

Publication: Durham Herald-Sun
Author: Cliff Bellamy
Date: June 3, 2011

There’s so much that is special about the music on “Songs of Mirth and Melancholy.” The release (due to hit stores Tuesday) is the first time Durham resident and NCCU artist in residence Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, the longtime pianist for Marsalis’ quartet, have recorded as a duo. The music also was recorded at Hayti Heritage Center, and the sound that comes across on this disc is another argument for preserving the Bull City’s great historic spaces.

Then there is the music — three original compositions by Marsalis, four by Calderazzo, plus an arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Face on the Barroom Floor” and Johannes Brahms’ “Die Trauernde.” In his press materials, Marsalis says the Brahms composition is the inspiration “for how we approach everything as a duo.”

Marsalis (who plays soprano and tenor saxophones on these compositions) and Calderazzo have a musical sixth sense, and on this recording you sense them breathing together in the way they play phrases. Note for example the brief pause that takes place after Marsalis’ initial solos on his composition “The Bard Lachrymose” and on Calderazzo’s “La Valse Kendall,” before Calderazzo subtly moves into his solos.

In his liner notes, Marsalis includes a prominent quote from composer Darius Milhaud on the importance of melody in music, and in addition to Marsalis’ gorgeous playing of the Brahms melody, he and Calderazzo have crafted some memorable, at times stunning, melodies themselves. Listen to Calderazzo’s “Hope,” and Marsalis’ “Precious,” as examples of pure artistry and beauty — tunes you will walk away singing.

Because of its convenience and availability in our time, music too often becomes mere background sound. Marsalis and Calderazzo will have none of that: This is music that makes you want to slow down, sit quietly, and listen with no distractions.

Submitted by Bobby on June 7th, 2011 — 01:18pm