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Album Review: Ashokan Memories
Peter Calandra
Cover image of the album Ashokan Memories by Peter Calandra
Ashokan Memories
Peter Calandra
2013 / Pecamusic
58 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Ashokan Memories is a collection of solo piano improvisations by pianist/composer Peter Calandra. Inspired by experiences and visions at his summer home in The Catskills/ Hudson Valley region of New York, each of the eighteen pieces was based on a “small idea” Calandra felt depicted the spirit of the place. (That’s important information to have before determining the meaning of pieces like “Gertrude’s Nose,” “Buttermilk Falls,” or “Peekamoose”!) It also explains the diversity of the music which ranges from lyrical and flowing to minimalist to edgy jazz. Calandra is best-known for his film and television music and has performed keyboards in a very impressive list of major Broadway productions. He is also on the faculty at Queens College, CUNY where he teaches Masters Level classes on Pro Tools Sequencing and Music Technology. This is definitely not the kid down the street who bought a keyboard and decided to record a CD! Masterful yet free and spontaneous, this music takes listeners on an auditory tour that is descriptive, evocative and throughly enjoyable.

Ashokan Memories begins with “Awosting Morning,” a beautiful piece that expresses optimism and a fresh beginning. “Ramblin’ Nightime” is dedicated to Levon Helm (of The Band), who did weekly performances in his barn studio in Woodstock that Calandra and his wife often attended. Gentle yet energetic, it’s a wonderful tribute. “Frost Valley” is very peaceful and relaxing - a lovely favorite! The melodic “Overlook” is grace and serenity set to music. “Peekamoose” is the name of a mountain in The Catskills and this piece conveys an elegant majesty that is inviting and welcoming. The rapidly-flowing title track has an infectious, swirling energy with only brief pauses here and there. “Tubin’ the Esopus” has an edgy sense of fun and adventure, moving all over the piano keyboard, offering surprises and suspense. “Gertrude’s Nose” returns to a more peaceful expression - spare and open - and is named for a beautiful escarpment with incredible Hudson Valley views up in the Shawangunk mountain range. “Ver Noy Falls” is another favorite. Darker and more mysterious than the other tracks, it has a very haunting quality that I love. “The Ice Caves” was inspired by “really cool” caves that are kept cold year-round by underground streams. Calandra uses a bright and more percussive touch on this piece to convey the chilly feeling and perhaps the sparkle of ice formations inside the caves. I really like this one, too! “Shaft 2a” is named for a swimming hole in the Shawangunk mountains - cool and lazy, it’s the perfect refreshment on a summer afternoon. “Buttermilk Falls” brings this excellent album to a close with a shimmering grace and beauty. Great stuff!

Ashokan Memories is an outstanding album of solo piano improvisations and Peter Calandra is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists! The album is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
October 5, 2014
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