Reportedly, it took a while for Joey Calderazzo to work up the courage to record a solo CD. Trying a solo interpretation of a song on an audience during a performance, Calderazzo found that he could
keep their attention, even without the safety net of a rhythm section or of horns. Eventually, holding down a gig in England for a couple hours, Calderazzo decided that he was ready. Indeed, now that Calderazzo is comfortable enough to perform alone, having developed his own repertoire for such soul-baring engagement with his audiences, he has found his unaccompanied work to be the more revelatory work as the essence of his personality comes through in his music.
The culmination of Calderazzo’s screwing up of courage to perform alone is Haiku,
his first CD of solo performances, which was recorded at George Weston Recital Hall in Toronto. A regular in Branford Marsalis’ and Michael Brecker’s groups for the past twenty years, Calderazzo indeed does show another side of his musical personality on Haiku,
now that he is free to play as the muse inspires him. While, as the dutiful accompanist, Calderazzo showed the chops and versatility to conform to, and in fact elevate, the music of horn-led groups, on Haiku,
he shows his style to be punchier, more staccato, and of opposing forces skirmishing between both hands. Instead of playing with locked-hand parallel motion, Calderazzo instead integrates angular off-centered jabs, particularly in his left hand, with the streaming irrepressibility of his right-hand improvisation. In other words, his left hand, more often than not, plays vertically, while his right hand plays horizontally. This tension between hands, or this syncopation percussiveness combined with melody found its best known, and most successful, application in stride. And yes, Calderazzo does assume stride sensibility more than once on Haiku,
but most obviously on "Just One Of Those Things," with its unpredictable acceleration/deceleration and its spare closely voiced dissonance. "Dancin’ For Singles," strangely enough, follows the same temperament, the dance not really being one that invites a person to dance, but rather has implications of barroom entertainment. Haiku does
include pieces played in more legato fashion, like "My One And Only Love," attaining a contemplative quality as Calderazzo nudges it forward with eighth-note chords in bass clef while concision rules the interpretation as he invests weighty meaning into just a few notes, avoiding the temptation to overplay. In a tribute to the sorely missed Kenny Kirkland, Calderazzo plays Kirkland’s "Dienda," a tune of longer tones and of a more ruminative than most of the others on the CD and one which Calderazzo expresses in a more legato, an elegiac, style. And then there’s the track nominally represented by the CD’s title, and which Calderazzo borrowed from his earlier eponymous CD, consisting of softly repeated chords in a brooding minor-themed form borrowed from the Japanese poetic construction.
Assuming that solo piano recordings bring out the personality of the musician as he or she takes advantage of the opportunity to stretch out and explore and experiment, Haiku
shows Calderazzo to be a pianist of technical precision, motivic invention, never-ending fascination with the instrument and artistic dedication.