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Saxophonist And Composer Andrew Gutauskas Calls For Audiences To Step Back And Give Their Attention To The Wonders Of Everyday Life With His Sophomore Album, 'Look Out!'

Saxophonist And Composer Andrew Gutauskas Calls For Audiences To Step Back And Give Their Attention To The Wonders Of Everyday Life With His Sophomore Album, 'Look Out!'
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Andrew Gutauskas
Saxophonist, composer, and GRAMMY Award-winner Andrew Gutauskas is an individual who has learned to see beauty in the everyday and wonder in the familiar Look Out!–Andrew’s sophomore album- stands both as a testament to his vision of the world, and as an invitation for listeners to become aware of that to which they give their attention. Featuring a host of compositions that evoke archetypes, experiences, friendships, and the wild human imagination, Look Out! speaks to listeners in all walks of life and encourages them to see the world anew.

Andrew Gutauskas is no stranger to the modern world. In the era of social media, instant communication, and absolute networking, a successful musician must be well-versed in connecting with audiences on all levels, including the virtual stage. However, to stay grounded and inspired, a musician must also walk with a deep awareness of the world around them. This is a difficult precipice upon which to balance, and it is a precipice upon which—for a time—Andrew was unaware he was standing. “In 2017, I’d been feeling closed in by the ever-expanding hypnosis of social media,” he recalls. “One day while walking through my neighborhood on a beautiful fall day, eyes glued down at my phone, I heard a voice yell in my head, Look up! which became a sort of mantra.” Andrew began carrying this mantra as a call to truly take in and appreciate the world and people around him. “Like a flash, I noticed the trees were a little more vivid, the sky was a little bluer, and this sense of joy came over me.” The phrase “look up!” also represented a musical term for Andrew.

While studying at Julliard, his saxophone teacher, Joe Temperely, would regularly encourage students to “look up!” as a way to maintain the best sound possible. What started as a mantra grew into something more. Over time, Andrew’s call to “look up” took on new nuances and subtly evolved into Look Out!—a multifaceted exclamation that reminds listeners to widen their view and celebrate life, camaraderie, and truth, while simultaneously advising caution over where we place our attention. The concept and music of Look Out! aim to lead listeners to question what marvels of life one may be missing out by placing one’s attention in that which does not ultimately matter. “When was the last time you listened to an album, watched a movie or television show, read a book, walked down the street, ate a delicious meal, sat in a park, went apple picking, or had a conversation with friends without once looking at your phone?” Andrew asks. “We are on the verge of missing out on a reality that is beautiful and fulfilling for one that is ridden with anxiety and fear. Look Out!

The music on Look Out! was written not with categories in mind, but as a collection of individual tales that reflect the different moods, atmospheres, and events whose unique beauty captured Andrew’s attention. As Andrew says it, the music on Look Out! is “the product of the complexity of daily human emotion.”

As a composer, Andrew focuses on creating memorable moods and scenarios whose strength is derived from the way powerful melodies and rhythms interact with the warmth and character brought by the specific musicians for whom he writes. His music is rooted in storytelling, and emotive perceptions of people, places, and events. Most notably, Andrew seeks to involve listeners in the interpretation and imagining of these musical narratives. “I want to tell stories with my melodies, and I want the listener to create their own story while listening,” Andrew says. “Paint a picture in your mind.”

Look Out! contains an eclectic selection of music, both original and arranged. One such is “The Kingpin," an original composition of Andrew’s initially inspired by the music of vocalist Vanessa Perea that evokes a caricature of the classic boss. With a hauntingly sweet and mysterious melody that captures the suave and sophisticated yet demanding demeanor of the character, it is no wonder that Andrew heralds The Kingpin as his favorite song on the record. Another original on the record is “Whistle Blower," a piece inspired by his experiences learning and playing both the pennywhistle and the bansuri. What is noteworthy about this piece is its writing process. What began as a simple melody on the pennywhistle was completed months later on bansuri during Andrew’s time spent in Australia, as he was watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean roll against the Southern Australian coast. Whistle Blower artfully combines the natural melodic limitations of the pennywhistle and bansuri with funk and second line styles to create a musical celebration of memory and friendship. “Willie’s Willin’" was composed while Andrew was touring in Tel-Aviv with drummer Dan Pugach. At the time, Andrew was severely jetlagged and, unable to sleep, he found himself “just staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night when I started randomly thinking about my friend Willie Applewhite.” That night, Andrew wrote the melody exactly as it appears on the record. The melody is a tribute to Willie’s “calm and happy demeanor and willingness to be down to try anything.” Look Out! distinctly features Andrew’s abilities as an arranger, not least on For “The Throne," Andrew’s unique take on the Main Theme from the HBO series, Game of Thrones. This arrangement was heavily influenced by Kenny Garrett’s album Triology, such that Andrew describes it as his take on how he believes the Triology band might play the piece.

Part of what makes Look Out! stand out is its use of the iconic chordless trio and quartet found throughout jazz history. The nature of this type of ensemble relies heavily on writing for and trusting in the unique musical character of each member, something Andrew greatly emphasizes. “Like any friendship formed on trust, I wrote the music with these musicians in mind and trusted that they would bring their personalities and professionalism to my music to help create a cohesive sound. While I might have made the blueprint, the musicians helped build the songs through their brilliant musical choices.” Look Out! features bassist Josh Paris as its harmonic heartbeat and drummer Chris Smith as its textural painter. Andrew boasts that he can trust Paris “with anything and know that the music will move forward and always feel good,” and of Smith as “a creative and versatile drummer that plays with finesse and style and provides a space to musically collaborate in the moment.” This album also features two trombonists as special guests: Willie Applewhite and Rob Edwards. “Willie Applewhite is one of my oldest friends in New York,” Andrew tells. “His dulcet tone and ability to create beautiful melodies, both in his trombone playing and in his composition style, have largely influenced my musicianship. His joyful demeanor is intoxicating, and you just want to be around Willie all the time!” Andrew’s praise for his colleagues continues: “[Rob Edwards] is a masterful musician and one of my greatest musical influences. I always feel comfortable with Rob and know that everything he plays is honest and filled with a deep understanding of music and life.”

Look Out! has, in both its concept and execution, superseded the bounds of a mere musical album. Look Out! champions a cry for interconnectedness and vision, for beauty in the ordinary, and for an awareness of our joy and attention. With Look Out!Andrew Gutauskas reminds audiences of the fundamental roots of humanity, and via storytelling, waters those same roots, takes a step back, and watches them flourish into something magnificent.

Look Out! releases on Outside in Music on October 30, 2020.

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