Branford Marsalis &
Joey Calderazzo
Songs of Mirth and Melancholy
Marsalis Music     ★★★★
Marsalis (ss,ts) Calderazzo (p). Rec 2010

The latest exploration by Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo is an emotional, introspective stroll through the ever closing space between their creative minds. Playing together since 1998 when Calderazzo took over from the great Kenny Kirkland in Marsalis’s quartet, the relationship between these two giants has grown ever deeper, producing some truly unique music.

The intimacy of the setting created by the Hayti Heritage Centre is apparent in the overall atmosphere of the album. The pair approach duo playing in a very interesting manner with Calderazzo ruling out “playing bass lines and ostinatos” and Marsalis’ strong intentions to “write songs that utilise the fact that it’s just us” [Marsalis &Calderazzo].

Marsalis is equally at home in both the Classical and Jazz world and this really bolsters the effect of the album, the lyricism and intensity of melodies such as ‘Precious’ really draw you in, Calderazzo’s lush chordal accompaniment cued by the melody gives this tune a rich, flowing feel.

The music is often quite free with the emphasis on the interaction rather than any more focussed beat. This lends itself incredibly well to Joey Calderazzo’s tune ‘Hope’, Marsalis’s soprano soars through the melody piercing beautifully through the warm encompassing piano accompaniment.

There is a distinct melancholic sense given by Marsalis’ first tune on the album, ‘A Bard Lachrymose’, a somewhat classical sounding conversation between the pair, brooding and gently wandering into ‘La Valse Kendall’. Continuing the darker ambience Marsalis pays homage stylistically to Wayne Shorter with a surprisingly accurate rendition of ‘Face on the Barroom Floor’. The soprano’s beautifully fragile tone carries the listener delicately through Brahms’ ‘Die Trauernde’.

In contrast to the delicacy of their playing here the opening track ‘One Way’ allows Calderazzo to stretch out with a rambunctious stride piano line which is answered by Marsalis’ tough, visceral tenor. The closing tune ‘Bri’s Dance’ offers a great deal of mirth with its bouncy melodies and florid solo lines. The album is encompassed by two incredibly joyful tunes with a profoundly passionate exploration in between.

This is clearly a deeply inspired and emotionally charged collaboration. A delicate, beautiful music produced by two friends whom together demonstrate responsiveness and fragility that transcends the boundary of genres and allows this duo to create exceedingly honest, powerful music.