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Peter Calandra

Ashokan Memories

Review by Gary Hill

This album is a set of piano solos. That makes it a little odd to classify. It’s not all classical music by any means, although that’s a definite reference point. It’s not all jazz, either, but jazz is prominent. It some sort of hybrid. Add to the fact that many progressive rock keyboardists have done similar albums and it seems logical to put this one under the “prog” heading. The truth is, though, no matter what you call this, it’s a great disc. It can be tough to make an all instrumental disc work. There is a tendency for everything to sound the same. When you add the fact that only one instrument is used throughout, that becomes an even greater risk. Well, Peter Calandra is really talented because he manages to avoid that at nearly every turn. And he does it with music that’s compelling and captivating. I’d say there’s really only one song that doesn’t stand up as tall as the rest here. With a set like this, that’s impressive. Anyone who enjoys great piano music will love this.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Awosting Morning

There is really a lot of magic in this piano solo. It’s one part jazz, one part classical and all great. It’s intricate and pretty and has a lot of emotion built into it.

Ramblin' Nightime
This piece is quite a bit longer than the opener. It’s also got a lot more variety and depth. It’s mostly energized, but it does have a slower section. It’s another solid piece of piano music.
Frost Valley
A much more delicate piece, in some ways this reminds me of Vince Guaraldi. In other ways, it’s not that far removed from the solo piano work of any number of progressive rock keyboardists. It’s a fun number.
Overlook
As good as everything has been leading up this point, this one ups the stakes. The emotion on this piece is great. It’s a very evocative number that works exceptionally well. This is one of the real highlights of the disc.
Bonticou Crag
A very short piece, somehow this reminds me a lot early Genesis. It’s intricate and quite pretty.
Peekamoose
With longer, more extensive melodic lines, this piece has an exploratory, adventurous element to it. It’s quite classical in nature, but there is also a lot of jazz here. It’s mellow and fairly sedate, but it’s also somehow more energetic than a lot of the other music on the disc.
Ashokan Memories
There is a lot of energy and intensity presented on this piece. To me, it sounds a little like Rick Wakeman at times. It’s a strong composition that continues to show the amount of versatility that can be injected into an album of just piano music.
Mettacohonts Flowing
Somehow there is almost a playful, childlike innocence to this piece. It’s a bit sparser than some of the other songs. It’s got a lot of magic, though.
Tubin' the Esopus
This cut has a lot of energy. It also sits somewhere at the intersection of classical freeform jazz and Rock in Opposition. It’s boisterous and bold. It’s not for everyone, but it’s yet another flavor to this release.
Gertrude's Nose
Calandra takes us from one of the noisiest cuts to one of the mellowest. This feels a lot like something one might hear in a jazz club. It’s pretty and delicate.
Woodland Valley
This is more along the same lines as the previous piece, but it’s perhaps a bit more rooted in classical music. There are really some particularly pretty musical passages on this composition.
Minnewaska
If it’s possible for a piano solo piece to be “catchy,” then this is it. The melodic hooks on this almost feel like they were meant to be sung. They really latch onto the brain and hang on, long after you are done listening. This playful little piece is another highlight of the set.
Ver Noy Falls
This piece is dramatic and quite classical in nature. It really has a melancholy kind of vibe to it. It’s a very powerful piece.
The Ice Caves
There is a bit of a freeform jazz vibe to this. It’s not a bombastic piece like “Tubin' the Esopus,” though. There is some classical music in the mix here, too.
Shaft 2a
Parts of this are quite classical in nature. Still other parts fit into that jazz club vibe. This is a mellower piece than a lot of the stuff here. Yet it’s got some exploratory sections, too.
Stone Ridge
The general concept here isn’t that changed from the previous tune. Still, this song isn’t a carbon copy. Calandra is great at changing things up enough to keep it interesting and varied.
Karma Road
This flows nicely, but somehow feels a bit more like the freeform jazz sound. There is classical music in the mix, too. It’s just not a real standout cut. If there is one to pass on, this would be it.
Buttermilk Falls
Arguably the most classical piece here, this is delicate, intricate and quite pretty.
 
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