A four-track introduction to pianist Joey Calderazzo

The highly respected, North Carolina-based jazz pianist Joey Calderazzo visits Band on the Wall for the first time on Sunday 17th September. Having cut his teeth in quartets led by renowned saxophonists like Branford Marsalis and Michael Brecker, it is with his piano trio that he best utilises his musical training, breadth of experience and exercises his “unquenchable desire” to develop as a piano player. Ahead of what is sure to be an absorbing performance, we profile Calderazzo through four vital pieces of music.

Hope (with Branford Marsalis)

Similarly to the great pianist Glenn Gould, Calderazzo was raised upon, and recognized at an early age a great ability to manipulate and improvise around, classical music. The classical influence is an ever-present one where his playing and technique are concerned and one which he himself acknowledges, alongside swing and strains contemporary jazz, in his sound. His 2011 duo album with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, is perhaps one of his most classical recordings and his breathtaking solo during the composition Hope is compared to ‘a two-part invention by Bach’ by PopMatters. While many young musicians learn by classical standards, not all of them retain classical values in their playing as they develop, but for doing so himself, Calderazzo has made himself a most versatile performer and improviser.

Going Home

In a 2012 interview at Black Sea Jazz Festival, Calderazzo discussed the simplicity of his writing, explaining that ‘that’s what I hear’. While he appreciates the rich compositions of Mozart and Mendelson, he’s equally as enamoured by emotive melody and simple harmony, which is in contrast to the harmonic and rhythmic complexity many jazz musicians strive to achieve through their composition. His feelings are written large in his trio compositions, and songs like Going Home, the final piece of his 2015 album of the same name, have almost hymn-like or spiritual qualities in that respect. Phrases resolve and the piece rises and falls, yet there’s always a subtle layer of harmonic intrigue; the sign of a truly accomplished writer and player!

Time Remembered (composed by Bill Evans)

Compositions by renowned musicians often find their way into a modern performer’s repertoire, and this is no different for Calderazzo. He has recorded Bill Evans’ Time Remembered for both a live and studio release, bringing his own feel to the piece, which is described as ‘modal and impressionistic’ by Evans scholar Jack Reilly. You can hear Calderazzo’s recording here and see Evans performing the piece with his trio, 18 minutes into this 1966 concert for an appreciative Oslo audience.

The Lonely Swan

Calderazzo’s album Amanecer is one of his most acclaimed, being described by AllMusic as purposeful and memorable in their review of it. It’s another window into his excellent writing and playing, with his piano complimented beautifully by the classical guitar work of Romero Lubambo, as on The Lonely Swan.