A great prospect for home listening in these dark days of lostness when for Pandemic-striken Ireland a tragedy among many is the absence of the intimacy of live music. A strong statement of intent, Lost Suite from Ireland-based Lithuanian pianist and composer Gediminas Karkauskas on his debut, a solo piano concept is never easy to pull off and yet he manages the feat. Solo piano can be too remote or on the other hand too much of a showcase of technique. Karkauskas avoids both pitfalls with a dreamy impressionist approach, reminiscent of Bill Evans as the album opens and that moves into a darker, carefully detailed, world of his own on tracks such as 'Talking Summer' and 'The Blame Rests.'
The album thrives on slow tempi, the pianist lingering over complex chords and subtle mood shifts that keep your interest throughout. Gediminas spoke to marlbank on the phone earlier today before going to do some teaching later. Living in county Dublin, not far from Howth and Baldoyle, he came to live in Ireland in 2001 and signed a contract to play a hotel residency. ''I quickly made friends and went searching for great places to play. Twenty years have passed quickly,'' he says, with a smile in his voice. He studied at the Newpark Music Centre and then at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague keeping ''one foot in Ireland and one foot in the Netherlands''. He became ''engulfed in the roots of jazz'' while in the Hague and came to ''see music from the composer's perspective and in terms of philosophy and technique.''
From Klaipėda, a Lithuanian port city on the Baltic, growing up when the country was still part of the Soviet Union, his father had Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman records at home, and as Gediminas describes how he himself developed his own interests confirms that he greatly likes Bill Evans, also mentioning a taste for Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Jaki Byard and Andrew Hill.
In Ireland on the jazz scene he performed with an icon of Irish jazz, Louis Stewart (1944-2016), during the latter part of the guitarist's life. The famed George Shearing and Tubby Hayes player who was in his lifetime often regarded as Ireland's greatest jazz musician and whose legend still resounds Gediminas got to know through a friend, the bassist Dave Fleming, and gigged with Louis for the first time around 2012 by playing in venues including the John Field room of Dublin's National Concert Hall. ''Louis was a gentle person. I was so lucky to play with him.''
An encounter with English pianist John Taylor (1942-2015) is significant in his development into the mature player he is today because Gediminas mentioned how Taylor told him that one critic had once compared him to Keith Jarrett and he realised in good faith and a spirit of humilty and whatever the merit of the comparison that he had to be his own man. Like Taylor, Gediminas set out as a player to be himself realising that he was at the mercy of the sound itself and that he had to immerse himself as an improviser ''in the flow almost subconsciously.''
On the classical music side Gediminas likes Debussy, Brahms and Chopin. As a composer he talks self-deprecatingly about specific things such as the fact that he writes ''melodies'' and does ''harmonisation''. His jazz composition he points out is a different thing entirely to the established idea of classical composition for symphony orchestra, which is from a classical point of view. The pianist speaks of ''motifs'' and significantly ''improvisation'' and says that if he were to rearrange one of his pieces from The Lost Suite for a bigger group it would be 'Not To Sugar Coat What Has Gone on Here' for a quartet or quintet to be achieved for instance by ''changing the rhythms''. When gigging returns post-Covid he plans to play solo piano concerts. In these dark days when live music is absent a glimmer in the embers is all and The Lost Suite represents such a glint, in the circumstances, of light. Out on Teddy D.