Album: Simply Beautiful Collection II
Artist: Laima Gaizutis

BeautifulCollectionCDCover-300x263Although I might normally end a feature article with a quote like this from an artist, I liked it so much I think I’ll begin with it. In my interview with pianist and composer Laima Gaizutis my final question was: What are your musical goals in the future? I loved her half serious, half tongue in cheek reply: “To have my music recognized. I have a wardrobe ready to go!”


In a number of ways, Laima has been ready to go from an early age. Her parents were refugees from Lithuania who came to the US to make a better life for their family, which included Laima and her two siblings. Landing in Cleveland, Ohio, as fate would have it, they moved into a house that had an old piano, and a lifelong love affair between Laima and the instrument began. By the age of six, she was already studying at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, and at only nine years old, she made her local TV debut on a talent show. Although it was not always easy for her family to pay for her lessons, they believed in her and somehow found a way. By the time she was a senior in high school, Laima was actually invited to become a piano teacher at the music school! Many opportunities followed and she went on to win first place in piano competitions in Cleveland and Chicago, eventually continuing on to attend the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY) where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree.


Now married and the mother of two sons, Laima lives in Houston, Texas, where she has taught piano for manyLaima-227x300 years. Although she, of course, has a grand piano, the gift of a digital piano in 1990 totally changed her world, allowing her to record her melodies as she played them, as well as being able to play with headphones at any hour of the day or night without disturbing the household. In her words: “That was the year the composer in me emerged. I was hearing music in my sleep and was jumping out of bed to write it down before I’d lose the melody. I would have to stop whatever I was doing so I could notate it. And so it began… I worked alone and also collaborated with various songwriters, which resulted in a bountiful collection of melodies and songs in multiple genres.”


In our interview, Laima went on to describe her creative process: “I could be in the middle of traffic when out of the blue I will hear notes and will quickly jot them down so as not to lose them.  My piano students are used to my creative outbursts of, ‘Stop, stop.  I have an idea.  Let me write this down!’  They know I am in the process of writing IT. Without music, my life would be too quiet.  The creative process is exciting to me.  I find it hard to take any breaks when I am in the process of writing.  I just want to keep working on a piece until I feel that each note has found its place.  It has to FEEL just right. Then I can put it aside.”


With regard to her teaching, Laima shared these thoughts: “I was always a little jealous when the kid who lived down the street could play by ear and I could only read music.  No one ever taught me how to improvise.  I’m an excellent sight-reader but no one ever showed me what it is I’m supposed to do with that left hand!  So I taught myself and am passing on the technique to all of my piano students.  While much of their piano lesson is spent reading music, I always make time for the theory and improvisation. Some of my students are already composing because of the techniques they have learned from me.”


COVER-2BAlthough Laima has been active in many aspects of the music world over the years, it wasn’t until 2014 that she became a recording artist with the release of her debut album, Simply Beautiful – Collection 1. Of this experience, she says: “I knew it was time to share my music…after all, why write if not to be heard? Each track of Simply Beautiful Collection I, and now Volume II, has its own mood and instrumentation. I enjoyed varying the rhythms and the extra piano melody lines. I hope fans will listen with closed eyes and be swept away by these music gems.” Her music seems to be resonating as she has won numerous local and national Billboards awards. Her instrumental melodies have been featured on television and she was featured in a production at the Little Reno Theater.


Now with the release of Simply Beautiful – Collection II, Laima continues her career as a recording artist with another assortment of heartfelt original songs. Adding a variety of musical colors to her compositions are Lauren Chauvin on violin, Beth A. Wiehe on flute, jazz piano by Buzzy Smith, David Caceras on alto sax, Warren Sneed on soprano sax, and Gary Wiedon on harmonica. The album opens with a gentle tune called “Whispers.” The song has a pleasant pastoral feel that evokes an image of a flower filled meadow on a summer day, with the flute accompaniment enhancing the feeling of lightness. Laima also accompanies her piano with a string section played on the keyboard that adds a rich orchestral ambiance.


A duet between piano and violin entitled “Midnight” has a romantic air whose influence is perhaps reflected in Nm1gaYhthis quote from Laima in our interview: “I was fortunate that my piano teacher gave me a lot of music from the Romantic-era and I loved performing Chopin, Liszt and Schumann.” About the creation of this song she goes on to say: “ The first two measures of “Midnight” evolved during a piano lesson. I was showing my student how he could create some beautiful melodies by just playing on the black keys of the piano while keeping down the damper pedal.  The resulting sound was unexpected – as much for him as it was for me.  As we played around I realized that I had a beautiful melody in the rough – built around the black keys.”


One thing I noticed, even just in these first few tracks, is the way Laima’s compositions sometimes take unanticipated twists and turns, carrying the listener in unique and surprising directions. On a tune called “I Miss The Laughter Most,” a subtle drum loop, saxophone, and touches of ambient synthesizer provide a bit of a light pop feel compared to some of the previous classically influenced tracks. Even more of this style is heard on “Long Summer Night,” with it’s up-tempo drum track and synthesizer textures providing a contemporary feel that combines new age and smooth jazz elements.


zenThe more meditative and reflective side of Laima’s musical spectrum is heard on a spacious piano and flute duet appropriately entitled “Stillness.” While I enjoyed all the songs on the album, interestingly, a couple of my favorites were towards the end. Both “Lilting” and “An Angel’s Dream” have a pleasant new age music quality that makes them easy to drift away on. I mentioned earlier how some of Laima’s compositions take the listener in unexpected directions, and nowhere is that more true than on the final track, “Penny Arcade.” This is undoubtedly the most unique piece on the album with its whimsical, almost cartoon-like, carnival atmosphere that made me smile when I heard it. In our interview she shared: “This song was such a joy to write and I can still see myself dancing to the melody in the kitchen at midnight while everyone slept. I wanted to wake them up to hear this upbeat melody.” It certainly reflects yet another side of Laima’s creative personality.


The musical portraits on Simply Beautiful Collection II are painted from a diverse palate of stylistic colors. And even within a composition, various elements present themselves. Many times while listening to a song, a chord change or melodic shift would occur that would make me think, “Wow, where did that come from?” Although Laima has her own distinctive musical vocabulary that is sometimes surprising, it is always accessible and enjoyable. As can be expected from someone with so many years as a piano teacher, Laima’s technique is exquisite, and the orchestral accompaniment that she provides on keyboards, as well as with the collaborators she has chosen, add depth and dimension to her interestingly written compositions. While there are certainly an abundance of piano-based new age albums to choose from, Simply Beautiful Collection II provides a unique perspective that many listeners are sure to find intriguing.


Click on the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album:



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