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Album Review: Spirit
Peter Calandra
Cover image of the album Spirit by Peter Calandra
Peter Calandra
2024 / PCM
54 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Spirit is a collection of thirteen solo piano and piano-based pieces (a few include synthesizers) by award-winning composer/musician Peter Calandra. Ten of the tracks are original compositions and three are Peter's arrangements of songs from the early 1970s that he played with bands as a teen. "Quiet music for a loud world," the album provides close to an hour of beautiful, soulful music. Six of the tracks were released as singles between December 2023 and May 2024, giving some familiarity to the album as a whole while flowing seamlessly with the other seven tracks.

A Yamaha-endorsed artist, Peter is one of the most versatile and prolific composers on the planet. From his many albums and singles to films (more than 100) and television music (more than 2000 compositions!), he has been immersed in the New York City music scene for most of his life. Peter has played keyboards in many of the top Broadway shows over the years as well as with the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra and NY Pops Orchestra. He is currently on the faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY.

Spirit opens with the title track, a very tranquil piece that starts with a low-pitched keyboard drone behind the main theme. After that, the music feels more improvised, allowing the "Spirit" to fly freely in an uplifting expression of joy and contentment. As its title suggests, "A Box of Candles" feels and sounds very much like the soft, soothing glow of candlelight and the hypnotic spell it can create. Peter keeps it simple and uncluttered, and what a beautifully relaxing piece it is! "Layla"is the first of the three covers and is an improvised piano solo based on the coda of the song by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon. Very open and serene at the beginning, the piece begins to pick up energy as it approaches the mid-point, becoming more animated with a slight touch of gospel, and then finishing as gently as a whisper. Named as one of the greatest rock songs of all time, Peter does a wonderful job of making it his own while honoring the original. "Joyful Light" is both blissful and free, as Peter's fingers dance gracefully all over the piano keyboard. "Fading Memories" very effectively blends piano and atmospheric keyboard sounds to create a darker, more mysterious feeling - a favorite, although I really like them all! "The Weight" is the second cover tune. Originally released by The Band in 1968, Peter's solo piano arrangement is gospel-tinged and would be fun to sing along with if I could remember more of the words! "Reflective Romance" is another favorite, gently expressing deep emotion and tenderness. "Uncle John's Band" was the first charting hit for The Grateful Dead in 1970, and Peter's solo piano arrangement is a great tribute! "Night Sky" expresses a very dreamy sense of freedom and inner peace. If I had to put this piece into a genre, it would likely be ambient, but like so much of Peter's music, it really defies categorization and is simply a beautiful piano solo. Gently melodic and overflowing with grace, "Spring Hope" is the perfect antidote to lingering winter weather and gray-sky blues, promising renewal and warming sunshine (hopefully!) coming soon. This excellent album closes with a shortened, perhaps more improvised, version of the title track - a great way to start and finish!

Spirit is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
March 11, 2024
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