Even after the first minute of this CD one starts wondering: how did two musicians, however skilled, pull this off live themselves? It sounded like a performance of the much-accomplished sextet led by pianist and keyboardist Dainius Pulauskas, who put out over recent years, among many excellent works, Autumn Suite. However, it is not. This work, Parallel Lines, is taken from a live performance of just two master musicians - Pulauskas and trumpeter Valerijus Ramoska.
As like many other pieces associated with Pulauskas and his associates, Parallel Lines is composed with unparalleled imagination and creativity. The symphonic construction of this multi-part jazz epic is a refreshing approach, which in no way limits the virtuosity or spontaneity of the duo. This juxtaposition of freedom and structure makes this composition most memorable on the first listen, something appreciated even more on subsequent listens of this marvellous work.
Despite working as a duo, the piece is rich with passages sounding like a larger ensemble. The skilful use of percussions is apparent at the start of the piece, which rumbles throughout, bringing the necessary chaos to disturb the calm and structure. Often this percussion rumbling is accentuated with cacophonic muted trumpet or cascading piano, reflecting the skilled improvisational talents of the duo. It is amazing what the extra hand can do.
Dainius Pulauskas is among the most creative keyboardists in the European jazz scene, contrasting the lyrical piano of a Gonzalo Rubalcaba with the triumphant synthesiser of a Keith Emerson. Valerijus Ramoska boasts remarkable control of his horns, from a painful cry in the early segments of the piece to a forceful barrage over the rhythmic undercurrent of piano and percussion. The two together are absolutely perfect, either in harmony or in contrast, bringing out the best in each other's talent.
Some melodic passages through the piece are marvellously crafted, drifting into a symphonic or even "chamber" rock style. Though some lines hint at Emerson, Pulauskas is far more extended and imaginative than the legendary prog keyboardist. There is a hint of instrumental virtuosity of After Crying, but the material here is limitless and boundless. Nevertheless, many connoisseurs of the progressive genre of music would find this recording absolutely delicious, enlisting the best elements of symphonic music into the creative potpourri of modern Lithuanian jazz.
Some of the middle parts of this epic demonstrate the intimate working relationship between the two, the ease of blending their improvisational passages. Often times virtuosos at their best clash as they try to dominate the sonic spectrum; however, Pulauskas and Ramoska do their best to impress - but in a sixth-sense way, complementing and supporting each other's playing. There is nothing more wonderful in jazz to listen to two masters of their instrument at their creative best, working in a harmonious environment to accentuate the best of both. This is what Parallel Lines brings.
Lithuania has had a wonderful tradition of jazz genius, and thankfully the modern generation of virtuosos are perpetuating this success. Even on individual merits, both musicians are among the top echelon of their instruments. However, the ability of these Lithuanian jazzmen to work in different combinations with solidity and finesse tells more of their genius than their fluid and crafty soloing. In Parallel Lines Dainius Pulauskas and Valerijus Ramoska confirm their elite status in the world of jazz, as well as Lithuania's place as one of European jazz's most exciting sources. This work just shows how creativity and ingenuity, alongside individual virtuosity and collective understanding, can create a true masterpiece. A great introduction to Lithuanian jazz novices, a wonderful reaffirmation for the growing number of jazz connoisseurs around the world that appreciates Lithuania's contribution to today's jazz world.
Mel Huang, Baltics Editor, Central European Observer
"Parallel lines" was recorded live at the "Vilnius Jazz 2000" festival, on September 22, 2000.