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Review: Joey Calderazzo and Julian Joseph

Joey Calderazzo and Julian Joseph
Pizza Express Dean Street, April 15th 2010, part of Steinway piano festival)

We all know the formula well from reality TV. In countless episodes of Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity, people who have never met before get put in a room together for the benefit of an audience.

The experience of witnessing the first encounter of piano titans Julian Joseph and Joey Calderazzo (above) had similarities. but also at least two major differences. Firstly, most of what this pair have to express they do through the music. And secondly – and more importantly – these two do actually have something to say to each other.

I was so pleased to have caught at least part of this unique evening, which launched the Pizza Express Steinway Festival, previewed for us HERE by Joe Stilgoe.

This kind of event, the first encounter between two musicians of almost exactly the same age, testing each other out is a never-to-be-repeated event. And the intimate surroundings of the Dean Street basement are the perfect place to witness it at clse quarters. Calderazzo explained how it works. “You go over stuff. And whatever happens happens.”

But what happens happens with an intensity and a speed which is quite mesmerising. (Getting carried away now…) They’re like Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, or Macauley Culkin and the burglars in Home Alone, or a friendly version of Lance Armstrong versus Alberto Contador.

They are psyching each other out, picking up and copying melodic fragments, textures, they’re playing catch, they’re avoiding each other by microseconds, setting up bouncing textures against each other, then providing pedal wash, together, then they’re colliding, and apologising for doing it with a smile.

There was a memorably touching moment in Calderazzo’s solo number, his own composition Hope. It was originally written during Michael Brecker’s long final illness. It brought back to Calderazzo memories of the huge presence of Brecker in his life and his musical development, and was played as a homage to his memory.

The good news is the there are three more days of two Steinways at the Pizza Express. The other good news is that Joseph and Calderazzo both want to play together again. The other good news is that Joseph has some very interesting projects coming up: a Monteverdi collaboration with the Sixteen. A baseball opera called Shadowball. And on the subject of good news, that’s definitely what this duo is.

Photo Credit: Cees Van De Ven

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