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Cantilena Records

Christopher CALIENDO
Caliente! - World Music for Flute and Guitar

Sincerita – Caliente! – Allegria – Amor Perdido – Impulsa – Amanacer – Risorgimento – Coraggio – Lamento – Rinascimento – Remembranza – Contigo - Meditazione
Christopher Caliendo (guitar)
Laurel Zucker (flute)
rec. in 2004 at Skywalker Sound, Marin County, California USA. DDD
CANTILENA RECORDS 66032-2 [62'39]

According to the liner notes, Christopher Caliendo composes in a genre new to me, ‘classical world music’. I take it to mean, using a classical music education and background to make something more from material in a ‘world music’ style. In the case of this CD, the styles are broadly Latin with American pop and jazz infusions; we can hear the elements of flamenco, samba, habanera, tango, Argentinean milonga and others. Or so the notes tell us; in practice, there is a tendency for one piece to sound much like another. Given the intensity of the playing, which is undeniable – no way on this CD is the guitar playing merely banal and the flute cool and emotionless – the effect can be pretty relentless.

The other major downside seems to me to be the uninteresting melodic writing for the flute; more piquancy and surprise would have been welcome. In contrast, Caliendo’s work for the guitar holds far more interest. I found myself particularly enjoying the few moments when the guitar goes solo, for example in the cadenza passage in track 10, ‘Risorgimento’. Zucker’s playing does not lack colour or warmth, though some – including me, though probably not fans of James Galway – may find her vibrato excessive.

Both artists receive a laudatory write-up in the notes. From the quality of musicianship on show here, the praise is well-deserved, though one could wish that notes would not preserve such fatuous press comments as ‘America’s next Gershwin’. Even were it necessary to identify another Gershwin, there is nothing here to hint at Caliendo’s being the one.

On the evidence, he is a very good guitarist with a feel for the rhythms of the world but without the gift that would mandate the use of a melodic instrument to enhance his excellent playing. However, others – devotees of the guitar/flute combination, perhaps – may feel differently. Certainly, this is not background music; the music, reinforced by the passion of the playing, wants to be heard.

Roger Blackburn


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