Joey Calderazzo is a young pianist who recently sprang, seemingly from out of nowhere, into a Blue Note Records contract, which in turn earned him a week at Catalina's, where his trio will be ensconced through Sunday.
Clearly, no artist can be evaluated on the strength of the company he keeps. However, his commercial appeal may well depend on just such a factor. Calderazzo's album was helped by the presence of Branford Marsalis and other established heavyweights. But they are not performing with him in this engagement. However, he has formidable assistance in John Patitucci on bass and Dave Weckl on drums, both well-known through their association with Chick Corea.
It may not be fair to judge the pianist's performance Tuesday, in view of his last-minute arrival after an exhausting, delayed flight from New York. What he offered was technically impressive, but often his hammering hold on the keys cried out for a touch of dynamic variety.
In the ballad "My One and Only Love," the graceful melody was distorted rather than embellished. His aggressiveness was better suited to a McCoy Tyner piece that captured the flavor of the composer's own style.
A visit to Catalina's is more than justified if only for the chance to hear bassist Patitucci. Playing only upright bass, he put his incredible technique and finesse to magical use on solo after solo. Weckl, too, cut loose with the skill that has established him as the role model for young drummers.
If Calderazzo can relax a little, this could develop into an all-star trio before closing night.