Image of the Week – 136 (Christmas?)

One of Santa’s elves:
19-year-old Wei

The “elves” that staff these factories are mainly migrant labourers, working 12 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month – and it turns out they’re not entirely sure what Christmas is.

The Economist says that in China, Father Christmas is better known to most than Jesus.

Kota Tua Jazz 2014

Getting to Batavia, Jakarta’s ‘Old City’ (Kota Tua) is easy if, like me, you have ready access to a commuter train line. Getting from Kota station to Fatihillah Square, where the first annual Kota Jazz Festival was to be held last Saturday, is not. Pedestrian access is limited to avoiding and being avoided by, the traffic.

However, Our Lad and I got to the Square around midday and this is what we saw. The frontage of the former Dutch Governor’s Office, now the National History Museum, covered with transparent plastic sheeting, was the backcloth to the stage.

We made our way to there and, lo, our Yogya friend Adi Wijaya, keyboardist with IKYWMC, was playing I knew not what with Triology which I presumed were a new group because they were reading from charts.  Adi’s groove lead into the familiar jazz standard Bobby Timmons’ Moaning. This was followed by Bilbo From Shire written by Arnando who proved to be a fluent melodic guitarist.

Two numbers? Our Lad and I presumed that we had caught the tail end of Adi’s set, but meeting and greeting him when he came off stage we caught up on festival affairs.  Adi told us that the planned schedule was badly out of kilter and that bands had shortened sets of, probably, 15 minutes. Because it had rained earlier, setting up two stages was not possible; in fact the other stage was not available until the evening. Thankfully, although it was to prove an encumbrance, my JakJazz ’95 umbrella was not brought into use.

While we were chatting, an all-women group took the stage and provided some excellent funk. With Dyah Sekar on keyboards, Adisty Zulkarnaen on drums and  Arnie Christanti providing extremely heavy bass lines, the group from Bandung are collectively known as Jazzy Juice.  The liberties they took with Dave Brubeck’s Take Five (actually written by saxophonist Paul Desmond) was astounding, and if/when they have an album, it’s a must have. Adi told us that Adisty is married to the simakDialog bassist Rudy Zulkarnaen who we were to hear later.

Meanwhile, we wandered around the Square in which the ‘normal’ daily activities were to be observed. These included crocodiles of school children on assignment to pester westerners for autographs and/or selfies. Being selfish, I refused all but one request which was to fill in a form: I wrote ‘rahasia‘ (secret) on each line and suggested that they pester the various cartoon characters posing for donations.

Being on foot for a day is exhausting so we used Cafe Batavia as a resting place. And it was there that I met Elfa Zulham, most recently chatted to at Ngayogjazz  where Sri ‘Aga’ Hanuraga and I shared our love of Errol Garner’s playing, which Aga then demonstrated. I asked Zul to pass on a request to Aga for some more, and – how can I adequately express my appreciation? – Aga did with the coda to a number whose title escapes me. What was to follow though was even more sublimely outstanding as Aga improvised for some 10? 15? minutes on a tune called Invitation. He was lost in it and when he had run its course I sensed that the seated audience wanted to give him a standing ovation. I did, but then I had stood throughout the set.

Music to die for?

Next up for me was Ligro, most recently seen at a JakJazz gig in the must-be-seen-at Black Cat Café. Once again they proved to youngsters that it takes mutual empathy gained through a decade and more playing together to offer the controlled chaos, on the edge ‘speed metal’.

But they can also melt hearts, as they proved by also playing this. (video)

Chatting with bassist Adi Darmawan back stage afterwards, he mentioned that groups were limited to two numbers due to the scheduling problems. So we listened to two numbers from a Weather Report ‘tribute’ band who first made light work of Heavy Weather before playing an Indonesian ethno version of an unknown to me title.

They were followed by a traditional piano-bass-drums trio playing Cuban music. They proved like several other groups who I didn’t stay long for, that there has been a welcome growth in technically proficient musicians with a wide knowledge of what’s gone before in the jazz genre. We may hope that it won’t be too long before they have their own individual ‘voices’ and become true jazz musicians, able to surprise us with their inner soulfulness and originality.

As evening darkened the Square, next up for me was Dwiki Darmawan & Krakatau-Ethno, the ethno being Sundanese percussion. Dwiki was the co-ordinator of Kota Tua Jazz and had barely  a week or so to get it together. In a short speech to the crowd in front of the stage he said something to the effect of how happy he was to play for Jakarta’s indigenous Betawi.

I suspect that those he could see were there for the jazz and would not have been primarily local folk. They were further back in the square: young lovers enjoying the freedom of a cheap Saturday night out.

The kaki lima (meals on wheels vendors) were ready to meet snacking needs. Plastic squares, each large enough to seat an extended family – and they’re really large in Indonesia, were laid on the paving slabs leaving very thin paths between each. With the lack of lighting, getting through the throngs to get up close and personal with the bands was to prove arduous.

Whoops. sorry … move your feet ibu ….”

Hence the long distance photos taken on my cheap camera.

Dwiki formed Krakatau back in the late 80’s with Sundanese percussion, and Riza Arshad with guitarist friend Tohpati formed simakDialog in the early ’90’s. By the time of their third release, Trance Mission, in 2002 Riza had replaced the drummer with Sundanese percussionists, a formation kept until now.

Tohpati had a prior TV appearance scheduled, and a third percussionist, Erlan Suwardana, was also absent, so we were treated to a quartet with Rudy Zulkarnaen on bass, Endang Ramdan and Cuci Kurnia playing the kendang, Cuci having to discard his usual ‘assorted metallic toys’. Thus, Riza was able to stretch his playing on the Korg, provided by one of the festival sponsors, playing lead melodies where previously Tohpati would have provided his jaw dropping sounds. I liked the more intimate set, with the ‘conversation’ between the two percussionists being a particular crowd pleaser.

(Note: simakDialog have a live CD and DVD, Live at Orion (Baltimore) scheduled for release on MoonJune early next year. Anyone who’s seen the full band will really appreciate the album: Tohpati’s in a world no other guitarist has been to.)

Tesla Manaf was next up on the stage to the left, now, finally, readied for performances. Although his set was familiar, having been to two full gigs and part of a third within the past few months, I was surprised how much better it sounded in the open in front of a packed crowd rather than in the confines of  a small club. Particularly outstanding for me was Hul-hul the woodwind player, pulling some surprising sounds from the tarompet, swiftly followed by similar growls from his clarinet.

Next up, on the stage in front of the museum, was the Dewa Budjana’s regular band with outstanding bass player  Shadu Rasjidi,  Saat Syah on suling, and drummer Yandi, still only 18 years old. They were joined by Sri Hanuraga on keyboards. By this time it was impossible to get up close and personal, and with ‘Er Indoors and a few friends having joined us, we were having our evening meals in Café Batavia. Standing in front, I felt that Aga’s presence helped create a ‘meatier’ sound than that heard two or three times in the past year.

By now, the length of the day was exhausting us, and refreshments or rest was required. The convenience store in the Square supplied ice creams and they did have beer, but that was warm because the refridgerated section containing it was broken. Energies were reserved for one last push gentle squeeze through the throng for the last act.

And a formidable act it was: Dwiki Darmawan’s Peace Orchestra with guests Beledo, a Uruguayan guitarist based in New York, Australian Dale Barlow, who plays most wind instruments, and percussionist Steve Thornton. All three have extensive résumés having played and recorded with A-list jazz artists. Beledo has played with MoonJune artists Dewa Budjana and simakDialog, and appears on sD’s Live from Orion. Dale told me that he’d spent some time in London playing at Ronnie Scott’s club, a conversation I hope we can resume some time..

I knew from Arlo Hennings, MoonJune’s representative in Indonesia, that the Peace Orchestra had spent the two previous days rehearsing, so they were tight. It says something about such consummate musicians that the bassist who’d rehearsed with them didn’t turn up and Adi Darmawan from Ligro et al stepped in at short notice and was immediately at home.

What we heard was strangely beautiful. There were sinuous sax and flute lines, fluid, lithe guitar phrasings, a driving rhythm section playing in 3-4-5/4 time, and an outstanding vocalist in Ivan Nestorman. He lead singalongs of, if I’m correct, Flores whaling boat songs, and a good time was had by one and all. (In this video he’s singing and playing with Agam Hamzah and Adi Darmawan, and Saat Syah, the flautist from Dewa Budjana’s Band.)

When we left, an hour or two’s chatting later, the Square and surrounding streets were still crowded.

It had been a good day for us all, so all praise to Dwiki D. for nurturing the idea for eight years, and then being given eight days to pull it all together with the co-ordinating help of Leonardo Pavkovic who has given international exposure to many of the artists appearing.

Arlo Hennings, Tesla Manaf, Adi Wijaya, Your Scribe

An album of larger size images is here.

Image of the Week – 135 (Bass Player)

Bass Player by Paul Levin, 1957

Paul was (still is?) the father of Tony, a bass player, and Pete, a keyboards player. Their respective discographies are mind boggling, covering a wide spectrum of major and, to me, unheard of artists, and genres from avant garde to pop, jazz to rock and prog rock, showbiz to singer-songwriters, and on million sellers to bargain bins.

After some 40+ years as professional musicians, the brothers have finally made an album together and this is a sample track.

It’s a return home to the music we first shared as kids – the ‘cool jazz’ of the 50’s.”

And very cool, in the current vernacular, it is too.

My main reason for choosing the image above though is that I regret that I don’t play a music instrument. However, if I did, I’d want to play the bass.

Its usual use is as a support, an underpinning in a rhythmic sense; that’s how I see myself, somewhere off centre.

Rare are the bassists who can carry a tune, or even contemplate solo gigs.

One such was Eberhard Weber who plays with himself – “It’s cheaper that way” – as he demonstrates here. If anyone would like a recording, on a Sony Walkman, of his solo gig at the Bass Clef club in London on 14th September 1986, email me and I’ll DropBox it.

(Eberhard suffered a stroke in 2007. His most recent release, in 2012, Résumé, is a collection of “various solo pieces from live performances” which he used to create a series of new compositions.)

It’s not widely known that Jaco Pastorius cited Eberhard Weber as a major influence. What is known though is that Jaco was an inspiration to a whole multitude of bassists, including Jeff Berlin – even though he doesn’t wish to be known as a Jacophile.

If you appreciate jazz bass players as much as I do, then check out this list and you’ll be reminded that there have been and are way too many to mention here, each one of whom deserves a replica of Paul Levin’s statuette.
This post was pre-scheduled.

Yesterday I was at the 1st Kota Tua Jazz Festival (report pending) and presume I watched the set by Ligro with Adi Darmawan on bass and I expect they played Bliker 3, as recorded at Indra Lesmana’s Red & White Lounge in 2012 – and, yep, I was there – and at the Black Cat Café nine days ago.

A younger bass player is Shadu Rasjidi. He has his own band, but is proving to be world class in Dewa Budjana’s Band, as we heard recently at Ngayogjazz. Again, I presume he wowed me once more.

Image(s) of the Week – 134 (Morris & Warhol)

Click here for larger image.

An exhibition opened yesterday in Oxford, UK, pairing William Morris (1834 – 1896) and Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987).  They lived a century apart, but the curator, Jeremy Dellerargues … that they have more in common that we might suspect.

Not me, bro. I wrote my university thesis on Morris’ wallpapers and fabrics and his idealistic politics were a major key in the formation of mine.

Morris didn’t oppose machines: he thought they were good if they took away demeaning labour. The factory that the early English communist dreamed of was not so very far away from the Factory that Andy Warhol ran in midtown Manhattan.”

Morris and Warhol both established printmaking businesses and distributed their work through new forms of mass production. Both were natural collaborators who worked with the prominent artists of their time to develop working methods that did much to redefine the artist’s relationship to the studio and factory. Morris achieved this through his mastering of craft techniques and his rejection of industrial processes and Warhol through the activities of the Factory, which often parodied the industrial culture of the mid-late 20th century.

Both produced an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture.

And I’m all in favour of that.

I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”
– William Morris
Love is Enough: William Morris and Andy Warhol
Modern Art Oxford
6 December to 8 March 2015

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
May to August 2015.

Image of the Week – 133 (Perfectly Timed Photo)

There are 49 more here.

Ngayogjazz 2014

After Tuslah’s gig @America, I ‘promised’ them that I’d be at their next one, at Ngayogjazz on the outskirts of Yogya, a city I hadn’t been to for – erm …time flies – twelve years? That was far too long, and so our family set plans and bookings in motion.

fr. Jakarta Post .
Held since 2007, the annual Yogyakarta village-to-village Ngayogjazz festival has been claiming success in familiarizing more people, especially in grass roots communities, with jazz, which is often seen as being high-end.

This year, it was held in Brayut, Pendowoharjo, Sleman regency. After hosting the festival in 2012, Budi Utomo, the manager of Brayut tourism village said the people of Brayut had become curious about jazz. Many had even expressed a passion for the music that they previously were not aware of.

“They also asked me where to get the CDs of the music they heard in the festival,” Budi said.

The simple answer was from one of the stalls set up in the village ‘market’, some from organisations such as Warta Jazz.

I also hoped to meet up with our friends in I Know You Well Miss Clara. As it turned out, Enriko, the bass player is currently immersed in writing a score for a performance project of a friend at ISI (Institute of Art), while Aji, the drummer, is a family man, so we didn’t get to meet.

However, Adi, the keyboard player, came to our hotel for a chat and we hoped to meet up at the festival site, but first he had to teach a student at Dwiki Dharamawan’s music school. Reza Ryan, the guitarist and lead composer, also had a student scheduled, but once he’d finished around three, we picked him up and he proved a useful guide to our taxi driver who dropped us off near the kampung. ‘Near’? is a euphemism for ‘not too far’ and a pleasant stroll through fields of growing rice.

It was still daylight when we arrived, but we didn’t get to see any bands because it was meet and greet time as Reza knew many of the musicians and promoters such as Agus and Aji from Warta Jazz, and there was browsing among the stalls for CDs and T-shirts and coffee to be drunk first.

While we were enjoying our refreshments, seated, the Dewa Budjana band was announced by two TV presenter types who have a propensity to shout at each other and laugh at each other’s jokes. We could hear all this quite well, and because the area from the stage back to us was an impenetrable throng we stayed put and listened to Dewa’s set.

They opened with an impressive lead in from Shadu Rasjidi (video) on bass and flute accompaniment from, I think, Saat Borneo. As Dewa joined in, Reza and I could recognise a familiar track from Surya Namaskar or possibly Joged Kayangan. Dewa’s melodies are catchy, definitely Indonesian and somewhat sentimental, yet for festival audiences, his guitar playing verges on power pop-rock. On The Way Home (video) is one of the saddest melodies I know, and when the familiar strains started I looked forward to the crowd being reduced to a quivering sobbing mass, but alas Dewa’s playing verged on angry and not one tear dripped down my cheek.

This was followed by some well-received free-form playing between drums and keyboard (loudly cheered by the throng) while both Shadu and Dewa stood to one side and watched smiling before joining in for some heavy funk.

At that point, thinking that there was time for just one more number, Reza and I struggled through the dark to the rear of the stage because I had a couple of CDs I’d promised to give Dewa’s wife when we met at Java Jazz earlier this year. We got there just as he was coming down the steps, and he beckoned us to follow. There was a long line of women – both young and their mums, who’d probably been fans of Gigi, Dewa’s rock band – wanting ‘selfies’ with him. I was impressed with his forbearance. We didn’t want our pictures taken, and waited until the acolytes were gently ushered out before having a brief chat.

Tuslah were due to play on another stage, so Reza and set off to fetch ‘Er Indoors and Our Lad. The setting was much calmer with the audience seated on the ground in front of the patio of a traditional Dutch house. On stage were the Solo Jazz Society, a ‘traditional’ piano lead trio.

They played classic tunes from the jazz repertoire, but with ‘dischords’ from Aditya Ong on piano which gave an added spice. His interplay with the bass player (sorry, name unknown) reminded me of some great duo recordings such as Jimmy Rowles and Charlie Haden. Their distinctiveness got Reza singing and whistling along with Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debby.

Their closer, John Coltrane’s Countdown seemed to suggest that “if you want heavy, we got it” and they deserved the prolonged applause.

Tuslah arrived almost immediately, Sri ‘Aga’ Hanuraga sporting a new haircut and Riza Arshad with a nose mask below his chin. I asked him if he still felt jet-lagged having only a day or so ago arrived back from eight days of well-received simakDialog gigs in the USA. He said that he was ok but tended to “drift off”.

Their set was familiar to me, yet different , but not just because the set list had changed. This is a dynamic group; in order to ‘get’ their music, one has to listen and observe the interplay between the equal partners. They don’t play to an audience but for themselves, and that is the essential ingredient of jazz. It’s worth repeating what the wife of a friend said after Tuslah’s Jakarta gig in August: “Their music is like eating olives: an acquired taste, but great once you’ve got it.”

From where we sat at the back of the small ‘arena’, we observed several folk who didn’t ‘get it’, but as I informed one departing group of western tourists, they were ‘captured’ on the video recording of the set as they left. “Oh, that camera?”

The scheduled forty-five minutes were soon up and it was time for an interview with the two ‘TV presenters’. This went on for nearly as long as the music: thirty five minutes, but as Ngayogjazz is essentially community-based, one cannot complain. The villagers and we guests now know that Tuslah is a combination of much hard work. With thirty years in the business, and now celebrating twenty years with simakDialog and a live DVD and CD about to be released internationally on MoonJune, Riza is a senior in Indonesia’s jazz scene. Adra, Elfa and Aga have fairly recently completed degrees in jazz at European universities, so they bring a different perspective to their music.

Chatting with Aga afterwards, I asked if they’d had time to rehearse, and he said that they’d had a brief run through of the numbers, but seemed to have forgotten some of them. However, there were no such problems once they’d taken the stage.

For me, there was a particular moment of pleasure when I told him of how my father played stride piano – “Oh, I love stride“, and that a treasured memory is of seeing Errol Garner live nearly – gulp – fifty years ago. “Wow …. my favourite“, and Aga then ‘channelled’ a couple of bars of Errol, left hand striding, and right hand tinkling away. Effusive thanks, Aga.

I’ve been to a few open air festivals: Isle of Wight in 1970 (where I slept through the last live performance of Jimi Hendrix), Malataverne in 1971 (video) and Glastonbury in 1985. Ngayogjazz’s village setting added a welcome dose of domesticity: the estimated 15,000 attendees behaved respectfully, as good guests should.

I look forward to future welcomes.
Reza told us that every Sunday evening he plays at the Mediterranea Restaurant and invited us along. With his bass partner Ignatius Made, the three of us were treated to a ‘private’ gig as they played a set of standards, Reza may have listened closely to the late Jim Hall, and he did play a few Metheny chords, but he has a distinct ‘voice’.

The surprise though was when Luise Najib added her singing to the second set. I’ve since discovered that she made it through to the round of 12 in season 1 (2013) of The Voice Indonesia and she has her own YouTube channel.

What an astonishing, note perfect voice, such power, such control. The trio played for themselves and we were sucked in, entranced.

A brief chat afterwards, and she told me that she had released a single, but I suggested that she and Reza should record an album of standards, an almost certain commercial success. But, she said, “I don’t understand jazz.” I pointed out, she did: she’d sung from the heart, eyes shut and in total empathy with the guitar and bass.

Luise will be at the Rolling Stone Cafe in Jl. Ampera, Jakarta, this coming Sunday (30th). She will be playing with herself, like this.

Journey To (and From) Yogya

A weekend in Yogyakarta to meet friends and to go to the Ngayogjazz festival was just the ticket; it had been too long since we’d been there or even got out of Jakarta as a family.

Thanks to the newfangled interweb thingy and that our local Indomaret is now an agent for Kereta Api Indonesia, the train company, tickets were purchased and we were happily forced to get up at the crack of dawn in order to get to the station on time.

We were thus able to observe police limousine 20-200 making illegal use of the Busway lane as we neared Merdeka Square, a symbol of freedom for the elite.

In order to board a train at Gambir station, the Jakarta terminus for express executive journeys through Java, the downloaded docs and convenience store proof of payment receipt are exchanged at a machine like an ATM for three ‘official’ tickets, (We were also able to have our return tickets printed out too, so that was one less queue we’d have to join.) Next we had to go through ‘passport control’, where our newly acquired official tickets were scanned and our real, not photocopied, IDs presented. Thus the notorious ticket scalpers of yore have been thwarted.

We boarded and plonked ourselves in our allotted comfortable seats, three of the two by two, with ‘Er Indoors next to a similarly aged ibu and Our Lad next to me. He and I immediately noticed that we could call our train’s ‘Customer Service’. I did wonder why it didn’t say ‘Passenger Service’, but then perhaps buying stuff in English is probably ingrained in the mentality of Indonesian eksecutif class passengers.

The carriage had small window with partitions of the same size which dissected the views.and made it impossible to focus on backyards which whizzed by in a blur. Not only does this considerably diminish the joy of a train journey but it induces a state of hyponotised slumber.

There is alternative viewing for those in the front row of the left side: a 12′ tv screen. On our ride there was a diet of films which only a diehard Bruce Willis fan could enjoy. For children, of which there were none, there was an Indonesian version of Thomas the Tank Engine; I thought that was a strange act of compensation for our inability to get the best out of the reality outside.

Of course, the noise of our rattling and whistling along the tracks meant that we couldn’t hear anything through the speakers above our heads, so the offering of music videos was nonsensical too.

The final offering was a film starring Jean Reno who seemed to be in a restaurant kitchen a lot of the time. The brief snatches I heard were in French, so I’ve since deduced that it was Le Chef. I also deduce that I was probably the only passenger on board who would have been able to understand the film thanks to my GCE in French,

Coming home, we had no complaints about the windows, and we were sufficiently far back to not be aware of the TV offering.

What we did have, however, was a dozen strong group of jilbabed ibus, large in both number and corpulence, who had absolutely no conception of train travel etiquette. For a start, they had great problems in boarding, what with their mounds of oleh-oleh, the traditional souvenirs of snacks for friends, neighbours and family. Those anxious to board whose entry was blocked fretted that the train was about to depart.

We left on time, and for the next four hours the ibus were worse than any bunch of kids I’ve ever been with on a school outing, what with their raucous chit-chat and laughter, and blocking the aisle while they waddled up and down it to share anecdotes and snacks,

Can’t name, can shame…

They’d also brought their own sound system to play Islamic teachings and songs. The stress level rose to such a pitch that when one of them came loudly up to a couple of rows in front of us I snapped. In my best (i.e. very loud) disciplinarian teacher mode, I complained of ‘pusing, pusing‘ (headache) and in my further fluent Indonesian, told the group to sit down, shut the fuck up and stop acting like children.

At the same time, the young lady who had the window seat next to ‘Er Indoors set off to contact ‘Customer Service'; he arrived promptly with a guy whose shirt had the word ‘Security’ on the back. Of course, the ladies argued, it was all my fault because I’d shouted at them. However, for once, the rights of other passengers to have peace and quiet was put across, and we were able to snooze if we wanted (and needed) to.

As we approached Jakarta, a looming sky of doom and gloom descended upon us. Arriving back in Jakartass Towers we discovered which roof leaks we still have and which weren’t repaired shortly before we left.

Same as it ever was …

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