Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries
Robert Thies and Damjan Krajacic
2016 / Gentle Rain Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries is the sequel to the 2012 release, Blue Landscapes. Subtitled Music From a Quieter Place, the album is a collection of fifteen improvisations by American concert pianist Robert Thies and Croatian-born flutist Damjan Krajacic. With an international performing career, Thies is known for his consummate musicianship and poetic soul. He first captured worldwide attention in 1995 by winning the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is the only American pianist to win first prize in a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn’s famous triumph in Moscow in 1958. Many classically-trained musicians have difficulty “letting go” enough to improvise freely, but since childhood, Thies has been interested in improvisation and composition that “transcends traditional boundaries.” Damjan Krajacic is a musician of eclectic styles with a background that spans jazz and Latin jazz with a touch of his own central European heritage and classical training.
The music on this album is very open, soothing, and beautiful. If it needs a category, it is probably more new age than classical with occasional jazz touches. However, with artists of this calibre, the music rises above any specific genres as a unique work of art. More ambient than melodic, this very artistic collaboration provides a spacious musical respite to “quiet the mind and nurture the soul.”
Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries begins with “Floating,” a piece that gently flows at the pace of a drifting cloud while drawing the listener in for what promises to be an exceptional musical journey (and is!). “Across the Open Fields” is a favorite and has a lively rhythm created by muting some of the piano strings to make them sound plucked while the flute freely dances in a jazz style. “The Story of Your Heart” begins with a haunting flute solo that incorporates almost as much open space as it does sound. The piano enters with an equally haunting motif as the two instruments come together to tell a heartfelt story - also a favorite. “The Warmth of Her Embrace” is expressed with an almost mournful flute and the lightly-flowing piano - gorgeous! “Discoveries” has a synth melody that Krajacic improvised - the only track that isn’t acoustic-only. The solo piano “A Love Remembered” incorporates the muted strings to again create a light-hearted rhythm. For contrast, some of the piece is played in the deep bass of the piano, expressing different moods and memories. This is my favorite track on the album! “Winter’s Chill” utilizes the rhythmic muted piano strings, deep bass of the piano, and some jazzy and percussive flute blowing to paint images and impressions of being out in the bitter cold - very effective and evocative. I love this one! “Morning Sky” expresses the pastel colors and peaceful stillness of dawn. “Dreaming” brings this excellent album to a quiet close in much the same way as it started - floating gently on a drifting cloud, completely at ease and without a worry in the world.
I did not hear the first album in this series, but I plan to remedy that soon! Blue Landscapes II: Discoveries is an album that should be really listened to a number of times for a full appreciation of the beauty of the music. It is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
July 4, 2017
with Damjan Krajacic