The opening track of Joey Calderazzo's Amanecer, for once, gave the listener some insight into where the pianist was headed. Midnight Voyager," which first appeared on Michael Brecker's Tales From The Hudson, is a complete reworking of the original. By complete" I mean that I did not recognize the tune until nearing the end. Repeat listens revealed that Calderazzo has both deconstructed and expanded the piece. Quite amazing.
Amanecer found Calderazzo stepping away from his Branford Marsalis sideman role to explore the possibilities of the piano as a solo instrument as well as harmonic collaborator in duo (with vocalist Claudia Acuna and guitarist Romano Lubambo) and trio (Acuna and Lubambo) formats. While the solo work allows for extended examination of harmonic ideas, the group situations let Calderazzo focus on songs: Playing with Claudia and Romano," he said, really underscores my love of songs, and reminds me that the Beatles, who I grew up listening to, have has as much if not more of an impact on my music than John Coltrane."
This love of song is indeed evident on the title track, played by the full trio. Acuna's searching vocals paint out that lovely melody as the piano and guitar (lightly!) provide structure. To hear more of Acuna's sweet voice, check out the duet So Many Moons," which somehow brings to mind Pat Metheny's Last Train Home." Calderazzo also explores the bossa song form on The Lonely Swan," a duet with Lubamba.
The solo piano pieces on Amanecer range in style from the pensive (a very open take on Michael Brecker's Sea Glass") to the Monk-ish ("I've Never Been In Love Before") to downright gorgeousa version of my favorite Bill Evans tune Waltz For Debby." I especially like Toonay," where it seems that the ideas are driving Calderazzo's right hand to extremes in angularity. Great stuff.
It's easy to see why Branford had this man in his group. With Amanecer, Joey Calderazzo set his musical bar very high.