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"Baltic BeBop"(CD review)

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    Baltic BeBop by Mel Huang One of the most creative and experimental jazz formations in Lithuania is the Dainius Pulauskas Sextet, which is composed of six
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2001
      "Baltic BeBop"
      by Mel Huang

      One of the most creative and experimental jazz formations in Lithuania is
      the Dainius Pulauskas Sextet, which is composed of six incredibly talented
      jazzmen. On one autumn night in 1998, Dainius Pulauskas staged a fabulous
      performance in Vilnius, which was later released as an album titled Autumn
      Suite. The four-part mini-epic goes beyond demonstrating the skills of the
      musicians, but it is also a mixture of various sub-genres of jazz and
      sub-links into other genres, such as fusion, freeform, retro, progressive
      and classical, among others. In other words, the album is highly
      experimental, full of improvisations and demonstrates what Lithuanian jazz
      is all about.

      Led by pianist and keyboardist Dainius Pulauskas, the Sextet descends into
      hedonistic passages of free expression at one moment only to segue into a
      structured passage moments later. Pulauskas's use of some retro synthesizer
      sounds recalls the wild fusion of Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea from the
      1970s, but that is only a small fragment of the mosaic of styles and sounds
      in this piece. At times, Pulauskas's restraint allows the other musicians to
      really shine, and it also shows a dedication to the composition.

      The Dainius Pulauskas Sextet is one of the most famous jazz bands in
      Lithuania. Since forming the sextet, Pulauskas has become famous as an
      original improviser, composer and arranger in the fusion and rock-jazz

      One of the most fascinating aspects of this four-part piece is the work of
      the two percussionists. Drummer Linas Buda, a fabulous technician in his own
      right, is complemented perfectly by percussionist Arkadi Gotesman, himself a
      leading drummer. The drums and percussion play more than a backing role
      here; like in some of the radical fusion acts of earlier years, such as
      Brand X, the drums at times become the second lead, playing almost impishly
      in the background above the horns.

      A good segment of the lead is played by saxophonist-extraordinaire Vytautas
      Labutis. His remarkable skills enable him to go from Charlie Parker-like
      anarchy to a lonely alto sax soliloquy, and they show why he has become
      famous beyond his native Lithuania. Trumpet player Valerijus Ramoska plays a
      sweet horn, leading the charge often with brassy outbursts to detailed and
      emotional lines that bring out that autumn feel perfectly.

      As a bass player myself, I tend to be more critical of bassists than other
      musicians. However, bassist Vladislav Borkovski is extremely talented and is
      one of the smoothest walkers I have heard in a long time. In some of the
      double-time passages his work alongside the percussion is just tantalising.
      He even employs some choice bass chords during the opening of part three.

      In a way, this piece is a juxtaposition of contrasting elements. Set in
      somewhat of a classical structure, a fusion feel soon creates the space for
      unrestrained improv and silence alike, and, at times, the band even crosses
      over into the structures of progressive rock. At times, you can almost hear
      Miles Davis playing with 1970s symphonic Genesis in the latter bits of part

      The horn-sax attack, backed by a dazzling piano and walking bass, conjures
      up visions of more straightforward jazz; however, that is shattered and
      reaffirmed almost by the juxtaposition of contrasting bits, whether it comes
      from the sound effects, the synthesisers, the percussion or from the
      dazzlingly inspired playing.

      This four-part piece really does have an autumn feel to it, with the piano
      so crisp at times that it sounds like rain hitting fallen leaves on the
      The flugelhorn recreates the melancholy that is in the slowly cooling
      weather and shortening days of autumn, while the sax conjures up the
      turbulence of such a season. The percussions take over for calamitous
      weather, giving the feel of thunder at the precise moments. It is always an
      amazing feat when musicians can create instrumental works that speak louder
      than words in describing scenery and environment, but this talented sextet
      has achieved. The fourth part sees a return to more traditional sound, a
      fusion sound that has everyone at their strongest. A fascinating ending to a
      fascinating piece.

      The Dainius Pulauskas Sextet is one of the most fascinating and talented
      jazz ensembles in the world right now. Not locked into specific styles and
      free to float as their
      imaginations allow them, they are actually pioneers in the free, but
      sometimes overly restrictive, genre of jazz. The Sextet has won many awards
      recently, and let us hope that this pushes the musicians to further success
      on the international jazz scene. Look out New York.

      Mel Huang, 10 July 2000
      Baltics Editor
      Central Europe Review

      The Dainius Pulauskas Sextet is:

      Dainius Pulauskas: piano, synthesisers
      Valerijus Ramoska: trumpet, flugelhorn
      Vytautas Labutis: saxes, bass clarinet
      Vladislav Borkovski: bass
      Linas Buda: drums
      Arkady Gotesman: percussions
      Autumn Suite was recorded live at Vilnius Jazz 98, on 10 October 1998

      e-mail: office@...
      web: www.vilniusjazz.lt
      Direct link to D. Pulauskas sextet "Autumn suite" CD-
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