Joey Calderazzo Trio, and Gareth Williams/Joey Calderazzo duet
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, 19th March 2014. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
New Yorker Joey Calderazzo came to prominence in his early twenties as a member of Michael Brecker’s group, and has worked with several other saxophonists at the very top of the tree including Jerry Bergonzi. At the end of the ‘90s, Calderazzo replaced the late Kenny Kirkland in Branford Marsalis’ band, and remains in the piano chair of that magnificent quartet to this day.
The first set on the fourth night of the Steinway Piano Festival 2014 saw Calderazzo sitting opposite Gareth Williams. At twin grand pianos, they worked well together on Midnight Voyage and, after hinting at various tunes and jostling with each other, they played Someday My Prince Will Come with style. Calderazzo was assertive and purposeful, Williams more bluesy and soulful.
Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile and Infant Eyes were inspired choices, and prominantly featured the Welshman. His quiff flopped over the keyboard; Calderazzo gently rocked on his stool as he listened intently.
Hunched in concentration one moment, head-back laughing the next, the two men skilfully overcame minor lapses in communication and ripped through Gershwin’s Liza to close their encounter with a joyful flourish.
One of the pianos was pushed into the shadows for the second set, which showcased the trio that recorded Calderazzo’s latest CD, Live (Sunnyside SSC 1368). Four pieces from the album were selected, but the opener was a new one that, the leader explained, “consists of 12 notes”. All of the notes (and more) appeared in the first couple of seconds, and the intensity rocketed as drummer Donald Edwards hurtled along with British bassist Orlando le Fleming. With just an hour at their disposal, they clearly meant business. The rarely-heard Rainbow came next: a lyrical, lovely waltz from Keith Jarrett’s disc Byablue. As he sipped a cup of coffee in his right hand, Calderazzo set off the rollicking riff of To Be Confirmed with his left. The bouncy melody based on Bird’s Confirmation flew by, and Edwards’ fast-handed solo was breathtaking.
Another wonderful tune that’s seldom performed, The Meaning of the Blues, was brimming with moody, brooding melancholy, and treated with stately gravitas by the leader. In normal circumstances, this would have been the highlight of the gig, but there was a big surprise in store.
The concert was broken up by humorous, sardonic words from Calderazzo, who touched on his family, racism and jetlag; and he spoke at length about his close friend, Branford Marsalis. By a happy coincidence, the great saxophonist was in the UK, and yes, he was at the club.
Invited to the stage, Marsalis unpacked and assembled his soprano sax and, to the delight of the audience, the quartet rampaged through Calderazzo’s composition The Mighty Sword. Marsalis’ twisting, elliptical solo overflowed with virtuosity and vivacity. The pianist was with him all the way, and Le Fleming and Edwards gave their all as they revelled in this company. The quartet played together for only a few minutes, but you can imagine the excitement. Here we had the principal half of arguably the best jazz unit on earth, going at full tilt before a few dozen people in a Soho basement! I’ll be tingling for weeks.