Joey Calderazzo is best known as a member of bands led by Branford Marsalis and the late Michael Brecker, but Amanecer just might be the album that gets his gifts as both a composer and a solo pianist embraced on a greater scale. Granted, he has eight previous albums to his credit, dating back 16 years, and this isn’t his first solo album (that was Haiku, released in 2003). Additionally, this isn’t strictly solo: four pieces here actually feature him in duo or trio settings with vocalist Claudia Acuña and guitarist Romero Lubamambo.
But his lyrical attack, his choice of material and the warm echo of the recording keep the spotlight on the pianist. “Midnight Voyage,” originally recorded with Brecker, draws on elements of stride playing and a funky hard-bop backbeat that he implies in the left hand. This precedes “Sea Glass,” a Brecker ballad full of rich textures that, due to timing, has also become a sincere tribute. He reimagines “Waltz for Debby” at a languid tempo in a lower register and gives it new life, while “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” sounds convincing as an uptempo number. The title track, originally known as “Cat’s Cradle,” adds Acuña’s lyrics to an almost classical arrangement that savors every nuance of the vocalist’s syllables.