2014 / Peter Calandra
Review by Kathy Parsons
Inner Circle is a fascinating collection of thirteen original pieces by Peter Calandra, a composer best-known for his scoring for film and television. Piano and keyboards are prominent in all of these pieces, and Calandra is backed by an impressive list of guest musicians on an assortment of instruments. I think the most remarkable thing about this album is that Calandra is so comfortable with and adept at such a broad spectrum of musical styles that range from classical to jazz to pop and fusion. Calandra’s goal with Inner Circle was “to touch the listener’s heart, to strike an emotional chord, while also exploring my wide-ranging musical interests.” Mission accomplished! Inner Circle is Calandra’s fifth independent release, and should bring him out of the background and into the spotlight. In addition to his soundtrack work, he has also played keyboard for an impressive list of Broadway productions and has music published and playing in sixty countries around the world. He has also played and recorded with the New York Pops Orchestra and artists that include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Aretha Franklin, and Allen Ginsberg.
Inner Circle begins with the intriguingly-titled “Clyde And The Pearl,” a jazzy confection that features Calandra on percussion, keyboards, and piano. Upbeat, rhythmic, and very catchy, it’s a great opener! “Dine’s Waltz” goes in a different direction with a light and very graceful dance for piano and strings. The first movement of “The Wayfarer” reminds me a bit of early Yanni with darkly intense strings and a powerful pulse that evolve into a sweet interlude that returns to a variation on the original theme, adding haunting, passionate vocals - one of my favorites! “Better Angels” is an evocative piano solo that relies on deep emotion rather than fancy finger-work to convey its message. The title track begins as a duet that mixes a sparkling keyboard with silky-smooth strings - very beautiful. “Faith” is another favorite. It begins as a soulful duet for oboe and piano and easily transitions into a chamber work by adding violin, cello, acoustic bass and flute. Themes are alternately serene and more energetic, building intensity all the way to the end. From there, we go to a sweet and tender piano solo called “So Much To Say.” To show he still hasn’t run out of new directions to take his listeners, “A Quiet Spark” is a gently ambient piano solo that comes directly from the heart. “The Dreamer” is atmospheric and hypnotic with a single low tone that runs through the whole piece along with keyboard and strings that cast a peaceful, magical spell. The last track is another surprise called “Chorale,” which pretty much says it all. Joy Askew overdubbed multiple vocal tracks, singing soprano, alto, and tenor parts and bringing the album to a close with an elegant wordless hymn.
Despite the varied styles of music on this album, it holds together really well and takes the listener on an aural journey. Inner Circle is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
May 8, 2014