This being Jakarta, last week proved interesting partly because I didn’t make it to the two gigs I wanted to get to, although there are parallels with the two gigs I did get to earlier this month.
There are also connections to a gig I went to in April last year, another in the series of Serambi Jazz held at Goethe Haus. That one featured German guitarist Kai Bruckner, his compatriot Paul Kleber on bass and the Riza Arshad Project, which was Riza with the percussionists from simakDialog.
I had enticed a former colleague along, and he brought two of his then colleagues, one of whom has gone from the tropics to the far north of Scotland where he now makes his own music, writes and dreams of climbing more Indonesian volcanoes. The other member of our group I hadn’t met before, but in conversation she proved to be an adventurous explorer of life.
We engaged with the musicians after the gig and Paul Kleber indicated that he was interested in seeing something of Jakarta’s nightlife, which is how we ended up at DPQ’s suggestion in a dangdut bar in Cikini. It was a memorable evening, not least because of the alcoholic fug which greeted me the following morning.
I’d received notice from Jazzuality of last Thursday’s Serambi gig, the Benny Lackner Trio + Azfansadra Karim (organ) and Johanes Radianto (guitar). What caught my attention was that Paul Kleber was the bass player, so I exchanged emails with the adventurous lass and arranged to meet up before the gig. I don’t really like being the ‘token bule’ at a gig.
So, we met, chatted and by the time we thought we should go into the auditorium, the band were playing their last number. Judging by the reception they were getting, it had been a great gig, standing room only – yes, I’ve never seen the place so packed. So apologies to all, including Paul, and I hope my settling of the drinks tab in Ya ‘Usual later went some way to atoning for what was a good night for all, including adventurous lass and I.
(This is the Jazzuality review of the Wednesday gig in Bandung, and this is a video of the Benny Lackner Trio recorded four years ago in Berlin. As a bonus, this is Paul with Kai Bruckner’s Micatone in Berlin in 2007.)
The following night was to be my third Tuslah set of the year, but @america, where Jakartans get to experience Homeland Security culture for free. Due to the sub-arctic temperature @america I had a bout of flu following the gig by IKYWMC two weeks previously, so I’d packed a sweater brought out from England 25 years ago and not needed to wear since. I had also suggested that the four guys of Tuslah, who’d been at Goethe Haus the night before, should also be prepared. They were to thank me later.
I made a point of not being late. I wasn’t; this was the venue at 6.30, the advertised starting time.
I spent some time peering around at the “latest technology”, first seen three years ago, in order to understand a bit more about American culture.
By about 7.10, having enjoyed the selection of Monk’s music being played over the internal sound system, enough folk had entered to form a healthy sized audience.
Then came the introductions. First up was an Indonesia lass who informed us of all the delights offered by @america.
This was followed by a mini speech by Mr. Abraham from the US Embassy. He informed us that “Jazz has a history in the role of American diplomacy.”
While I pondered this, he went on to extol the creativity of Thelonius Monk, “the pianist who helped instigate bebop, then stood outside it. His compositions were, on the surface, jagged and ungainly. But they also followed their own internal logic: splinters of dissonance turning into tunes that hesitated, then veered off at unexpected angles.”
(fr. this FB page)
That description seems to fit Tuslah too, as my written in the dark barely legible notes would seem to indicate …
Played Twice (arr.Adra): twists, turns, shifts, forever surprising, from twiddly to hard funk, cinema organ swells > ambient, all interwoven.
Ruby My Dear: Almost classical (Debussy?) intro from Sri H.> underlying menace builds fr. drums & synth
‘Round Midnight: (arranged by Adra and Aga): delicate piano, shades of Satie. familiar melody emerges from organ, a lovely duet. > into subtle funk > synth melody … piano … rain gently falls.
A totally original interpretation, really lovely.
Four In One: a distracting film of a firework display behind the band
Yet the drive, particularly from Aga lead to loud applause for his solo, then Adra’s, and even Elfa’s drum solo – note, I’m not a fan of drum solos – and by this time the firework display served as a tribute, an integral part of the show.
Pannonica: This started with Aga vamping at the piano to the repetition of a few phrases from an interview (Monk?) on the backscreen. A few scenes were repeated, and I particularly liked the one when a cat appeared to jump off the window sill onto Adra’s head. This number featured the Italian guitarist Alessandrio Florio. Riza sat this one out, and we got ‘less’ Tuslah, and a ‘straighter’ take.
Worth noting for local jazz fans is that Alessandrio, whose recently released album Taneda features Pannonica and Monk’s Dream, is in Indonesia for a bit longer and can be seen at the Largo Bistro in Kemang tomorrow evening (21st), and at Butcher’s Bill in Bandung on Wednesday, both with Adra and Elfa.
My final note scribbled as I listened was that we need four ears in order to focus on the four voices of what, in my considered opinion, is currently the best live band in the country. When folk talk about seeing a music group, you are often there to listen. Tuslah require all your senses.
Having had the mandatory photo taken of the musicians + Mr. Abraham standing behind the @america logo, I trust this is a sign of a few gigs soon Stateside.
Those of us in Indonesia will now have to wait until November 23rd to catch Tuslah at Ngayogjazz 2014.
See you there?
More fuzzy pics here