Composer and Multi-Instrumentalist Peter Calandra Emerges Anew with FIRST LIGHT (aka Quiet Music for a Loud World)

Share Article

When he’s not playing first chair keyboard on a Broadway show, or composing the rousing sports theme you’ll hear next Sunday afternoon, New York-based pianist Peter Calandra is busy getting the music he hears out of his head, and into the world. He says that releasing his new album, First Light, brings a quiet sense of satisfaction compared to the “wow factor” of hearing one’s music performed for millions in films and on television.

Composer & Pianist Peter Calandra's new release, First Light; he calls it quiet music for a loud world.

Peter Calandra's Inner Circle revealed the artist to be one of the most versatile composers and performers on the contemporary music scene today. First Light showcases Calandra's artistry across an equally wide landscape of styles, moods, and motifs...

“Telling stories in sound” is the simple pursuit at the heart of Peter Calandra’s music, and one might say he has created a bestseller with First Light, his third album of original music in as many years, self-releasing this week in digital and physical album formats. While Calandra is a busy New York-based composer, musician and recording artist juggling premium music gigs in the big apple -- either playing keyboards on Broadway for The Lion King, or writing energizing sports themes for ESPN – it’s crucial for him to find time to honor the new music he hears playing in his head on a constant basis. To our benefit, when that music is ready to share, Calandra engages his most talented musical cohorts in creating genre-defying music like First Light, which he fondly refers to as simply “quiet music for a loud world.”

Calandra’s original albums – including Sunrise Over New York, Ashokan Memories, Inner Circle, and First Light – are both ambitious and listenable, pleasing critics and music fans alike. A “music guy’s” guy, Calandra receives praise for producing technically-impressive albums that defy genre, leaning toward contemporary instrumental, new age, ambient and jazz fusion.

Joined by a sizable crew of guest artists on First Light, Calandra delights the listener from the opening up-tempo "Open Your Heart" and its cheery romanticism, winding his way through new age ambience (“First Light”), urban chill out ("Night City"), bouncy smooth jazz ("Sunset Sky"), lively solo piano ("Keep The Faith"), serene new age soundscapes ("Valley of Two Lakes"), and mellow semi-minimalism ("Sunrise Over New York"). No matter what the mood or motif, Calandra's piano and keyboards anchor each of the thirteen tracks on First Light in solid musicianship and soulful artistry.

“I love creating music that takes people out of their everyday lives, that’s really the bottom-line in all the music that I make,” says the multi-instrumentalist, coming across as both very practical and highly-artistic.

In fact, his new title track, “First Light,” is a perfect example of how Calandra likes to create layers in both music and meaning. While the title “First Light” hints at the first light of day, it is actually an astronomy term for the first use of a telescope to take an astronomical image after it has been constructed, usually an image of a well-known object like the moon, a moment that is exciting and meaningful for both astronomers and star-gazers alike. This hopeful moment is portrayed in Calandra’s composition with oboe, flute and strings, arranged to pay tribute to that expectant and triumphant time in such a delicate way that one could also imagine it portraying the first light of daybreak.

One doesn't discover behind-the-music insights like that except in rare interviews with the spotlight-shy Calandra, who usually forgoes detailed liner notes, preferring the music speak for itself. Apparently, it’s working. Renowned music reviewer Bill Binkelman, who has reviewed thousands of albums in the contemporary crossover space, wrote “Multi-instrumentalist Peter Calandra's Inner Circle revealed the artist to be one of the most versatile composers and talented performers on the contemporary music scene today. First Light showcases Calandra's artistry across an equally wide landscape of styles, moods, and motifs, featuring outstanding performances, superb production quality and flawless mixing and mastering.”

To Binkelman’s point, Calandra’s music is well-produced, and might even be described as “cinematic” in nature. His keen use of music to evoke emotion is employed to create crowd-stirring anthemic pieces for TV coverage of major events like World Cup Soccer, or, to simply set a welcoming vibe in a room. In essence, Calandra says, the latter is his goal for First Light, which includes fewer “jazzy” pieces than his last album, Inner Circle. “I designed the new album in a certain way; the first 5 tracks lead you into a nice space for relaxing and then the rest just flow away on a really nice listening experience. It’s not too down tempo, it’s just perfect for an evening at home, or to play during a cocktail party and dinner with friends,” Calandra says. A serene video of the track is available online.

Calandra’s thoughtful approach to his original music is both practical and artistic, with just a hint of spirituality imbuing the creativity. He explains, “After each album, I take note of what people liked, and I try to learn from it for the next album; in a sense, I’m in service to my audience. I hope if people enjoy hearing it, that they’ll also buy it someday. And, why not try to achieve both ends? You can’t create in a vacuum and then complain when it doesn’t sell. On the other hand, I would never create music just to sell something. I have to feel it, and I have to believe it’s the best music I can offer.”

Calandra, who’s been playing live music gigs since his mid-teens, sets the artistic bar high for himself. He counts among his many influences Steve Reich, Aaron Copland, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Harold Budd, Arvo Part, Henryk Górecki, Josquin DePres, Johann Sebastian Bach, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, and artist/musician Larry Rivers. Calandra spent 16 years as the keyboard player of Rivers’ creative vehicle, the NYC-based Climax Band, which also included trumpet player Howard Brofsky (Dr. BeBop), who passed away in 2014, a friend and father-figure to whom Calandra has dedicated First Light.

Regarding working with Rivers, Calandra shares, “What I admired about Larry was his ability to bridge the gap between staying true to one’s own artistic expression, and guiding people to experience something in a certain convey an experience,” adding, “To me, finding that space where craft and art converge is what makes something memorable.”

Calandra seems well on his way to achieving that balance with First Light, which is both emotional and memorable. It was recorded by Calandra at his Flying Genesha Studios, NYC, with contributions by Joy Askew, Ralph Farris, Junah Chung, Ragga Petursdottir, Peter Prosser, Kermit Driscoll, Kathleen Nester, Julia DeRosa, David Weiss, Howard Joines, and Calandra himself on multiple instruments; he also engineered the album, and was joined on the mix by Ken Freeman, who also handled mastering.

A feature in Music & Media Focus sums it up, noting "Blending new age, neo-classical, and smooth jazz influences, Peter’s creative compositions are as emotionally evocative as they are technically brilliant, striking the perfect balance between form and feeling."

The music is published by Pecamusic, and Peter Calandra is a BMI artist. Please visit the artist's official website to read Calandra's detailed biography, or to learn more about his original music, his compositions for Film/Television, his live performances on Broadway, and his sheet music.

First Light, and most of Peter Calandra’s albums, are available at iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, and other online retail stores.

Radio promotion for First Light is being handled by Ed and Stacey Bonk at LAZZ Promotions, reachable at lazzpromotions(at)rogers(dot)com or at 905-470-1230.

For media interviews with Peter Calandra, review copies of First Light, or hi-resolution artwork, contact Beth Ann Hilton, The B Company, bethhilton(at)theBcompany(dot)com or at 310-560-8390.

You are welcome to connect with Peter Calandra at:

FIRST LIGHT - Track List:
Open Your Heart 3:01
Night City 4:09
First Light 4:10
Sunset Sky 3:10
Valley Of Two Lakes 5:13
Keep The Faith 3:12
The Dream 2:52
Inner Secrets 3:50
Circle The Time 3:02
Flames Of Love 2:09
Morning Star 2:44
Sunrise Over New York 3:52
The Poet 3:22
Total Playing Time: 45:00

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Beth Hilton
The B Company
+1 (310) 560-8390
Email >
Follow >
The B Company
Like >
Follow us on
Visit website