Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Peter Calandra - Ashokan Memories

Music, in a lot of ways, has a lot in common with food. One of the most obvious elements is the sheer variety that is produced. And with all of that variety, our palettes will oftentimes long for something different just about each and every day. While one day we may want something sweet, the next we may crave the salty or savory. The same is true of music. One day we may find ourselves needing that guilty pleasure pop music release and the next may find us in a place where we’re in pursuit of rocking out or searching out love through some quality singer-songwriter fare. And some days, we may simply need something simple and relaxing to calm out nerves and soothe our soul.

If that’s the place you’re in, allow us to introduce you to Peter Calandra and his latest release, Ashokan Memories.
The truth is, you might already know of Calandra and not even be aware of it. The New York based artist, whose musical lineage stems from inspiration given by his amateur musician mother, has amassed a professional portfolio of epic proportions. To date, the talented “composer and keyboard player has scored forty films, written over two thousand compositions for television broadcast, including thirty-seven theme packages, and performed as a musician in the Broadway productions of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, The Phantom Of The Opera, The Lion King, and Little Shop Of Horrors.” Along the way, he’s also released three solo albums exploring genres and sonic textures that touch on elements of world music, Christmas music, jazz, classical, and more.

Now, with Ashokan Memories, the artist turns to a personal place for his muse, drawing inspiration from the Catskills in New York where Calandra and his wife own a summer home. “There is something spiritual about this part of New York that goes beyond what is visible to the eye. If you spend some time there and pay attention, you feel it,” he shares.
The album finds Calandra trying to capture those hidden gems of the mountains and bring them to listener’s ears through the sole instrument of solo piano. Throughout the eighteen tracks, he guides listeners on what is essentially a tour of this hallowed ground, the music accompanying with what feels like simplicity but is clearly not as Calandra weaves tapestries of sound together, fusing touches of classical, jazz, and others along the way.

The trick to finding those elements is listening closely, although this is an album that is perfectly fine to tune in while sitting on the front porch, glass of wine in hand, while the sun sets, washing the cares of the day away. However, more focused listens will find pleasant New Age vibes to songs like “Awosting Morning” and “Woodland Valley” while snippets of classical and modern jazz color the title track and “Tubin’ the Esopus.” There’s a moodiness to “Ver Noy Falls” that is refreshing and “Stone Ridge” showcases a keen use of spacing, allowing some silence to speak through the notes while “Buttermilk Falls” draws the album to a satisfying close.
Peter Calandra’s Ashokan Memories may not be an album that you’ll be in the mood for every day, but on that day that you feel the burden of the world on your shoulders, that aforementioned glass (or bottle depending upon just how bad a day it’s been) and Calandra’s smooth, gentle piano work may be just the balm your soul needs.

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