Beauty Through Poised Fingertips with Gediminas Karkauskas

Melodic, lush and spiritual are the first three words you might think when you hear the new music by Gediminas Karkauskas in his debut release “Lost Suite.” The accomplished pianist, now based in Ireland and originally from Lithuania, presents six original pieces that describe the finer things in life that money can’t buy. In the title track while the right hand explores new patterns, the left gives a satisfying, wholesome base to the experience. “The Blame Rests” introduces itself with an unsettling interval followed by unexpected chords and riffs that simulate the strum of a harp, steps and missteps, and pleasing harmonies and departures. In a word it’s lovely for its inventiveness. Also full of interesting jumps is “Alias” which is punctuated by bluesy moments and then romps around to a bright finish. “Take Nothing” might be a paean to an ex-lover, sad and reminiscing, its uplifting ending chords bidding goodbye but knowing it’s all going to be okay. An expressive, emotional debut that echoes the solitary experience while being completely right with the universe.  

How does it feel to finally release your first album?

I am so pleased because finally my music has grown to a point where I have been able to say that an achievement has been made. 

What inspired you to do a solo album? 

Being a pianist there is a hidden desire to challenge oneself – to explore the piano as an instrument capable of expressing your musical ideas.

What does the title “Lost Suite” mean to you and what do you hope to convey?  

The album is a concept album and I hope the music will resonate in the listener’s inner ear. I think that there may be something of a juxtaposition between what has gone before (Suite/Classical music and Lost) and the music of the album which is expressed through a novel form of jazz composition combining impressionism and jazz. 

What was your frame of mind while composing?

Composition takes so many aspects of thought all at once: style, harmony, melody and freedom of improvisation. It’s exhausting but satisfying. When I was composing, the first two attempts to write the Lost Suite seemed complete and I then tried to perform it. I was not satisfied. I took a break. I needed to pull away from it and went to visit Paris and Madrid. Spending time in these big cities somehow connected the dots for me regarding the contemporary world. I came back to Lost Suite and shaped it differently with a deeper exploration into the harmony and style.  

What do you like about the solo feeling?

Solo playing is conveying the freedom of the piece and not losing the main idea. That is the challenge for solo playing. I performed with a trio and my music worked well but I would like in the future to add string and brass sections.

What are your cultural influences that play a part in your music today?

I grew up in a small city in Lithuania and started attending piano and music lessons at an early age. My parents were both musicians and I was often participating in musical events from choirs to marching bands. I found that to be great fun. In primary and secondary school I would open the parent/teacher meetings with piano playing. I enjoyed it so much.

A big influence for me is contemporary art and indeed graffiti art. Whenever I am visiting a city I seek out the art museums such as The Rome Museum of Contemporary Art and the Madrid Museum Reina Sofia. In Paris I found the streets fascinating as the street art is highly evocative.

I have lived almost half of my life in Ireland and obviously its rich cultural heritage has had a big influence on me. I took everything Irish and its music to heart and set about understanding it. This has also shaped my cultural experiences and my world view. The simplicity and easygoing friendliness of Irish musicians had a major impact on me and my music. 

What do audiences first think of when they hear free jazz and what is your response?

There are many interesting concepts in Free Jazz. I love listening to it and find it exciting. Someone hearing it for the first time might find it strange, but if they get into its groove they could come to appreciate its beauty; for instance, Cecil Taylor has a melodic richness that can be explosive.

Did you enjoy production and what were the highlights of making this album?

As this was my first album, production was all new to me. “Lost Suite” had great teamwork with my wife Irma who supported every step of all aspects from recording to cover art. Otherwise being a composer can be a very solitary life.

I am very pleased with the mastering by Arne Bock, and there were several months spent adjusting to Arne’s requirements. I knew Arne when we were students at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague in the Netherlands. I had full confidence in his expertise and was so grateful to him for his support.

Fortunately Dominic Reilly of Teddy D Records took over the difficulties that surround production. Honestly I prefer to sit down to compose! 

How have you adapted your performance for streaming and are there any particular advantages to it?

I am a little reluctant to get into live streaming performance. I know it is necessary in this time of COVID and a way to share music with listeners who are starved of the live performance. When I do give online performances I do not adapt my playing in any way.

What is Broma Jazz and what is your role or relationship to it?

Broma Jazz is a jazz festival held every year in Lithuania. I was invited to play there on a few occasions and enjoyed it immensely.

What did you learn in creating this music?

I learned that courage pays off. I was aware that the music I was composing is not commercial or mainstream.

How will you continue to get this music out there?

I look forward to playing live performances when all this chaos is over. But for an independent artist it is challenging to know what to do after the music is recorded. Having a management company, for me, is the creative part of spreading the music. Teddy D Promotions (Teddy D Records) has worked to spread my music both east and west. It was a big thrill when I saw my album on sale in Tower Records Japan. I have increased my presence on Facebook and I look forward to new friends with whom I can share my music.

What do you want to say to audiences who cannot wait to get back to live performances?

We must consider the unusual global situation and be patient. Of course artists and audiences are anxious to get back into music venues. I want to say to the audience, the listeners – I too cannot wait to share my music with you in live performance – for the moment I share my music with you the audience through my album and I do appreciate the support that is shown to me.

“Lost Suite” may take time to grow on you but I do believe that it will. This contemplative time of imposed space in our lives that is COVID allows us the opportunity to listen to music such as Lost Suite.

Other comments 

 I hope your readers get as much pleasure in listening to Lost Suite as I had in creating it. I am pleased to see it was well-received globally. Happiness is what you do each day of your life. It is not something that is achieved and then finished. What I look forward to is my next album, my instrument, and my concepts and melodies.

I hope your readers enjoy listening to my album. We have already achieved much more success with it then I could have imagined. It has inspired me to look forward towards my next project.

For more information visit https://www.offpitchrecords.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Gediminas Karkauskas.

(c) 2020 Debbie Burke

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