Date: Tuesday 10th February
Place: Sohanna Hall, Energy Building, Central Jakarta.
The occasion was the launch of a four track ‘sampler’ of a new album by Dwiki Dharmawan, Passion, Love, Life, recorded just four weeks ago in California under the auspices of New York based MoonJune Records.
The album features two Americans, Jimmy Haslip (bass) best known for being a founder member of the Yellowjackets, and Chad Wackerman (drums), best known for his work with Frank Zappa. Both have recently been the sidesmen on the Stateside recording date for Indonesian guitarist Tohpati’s Tribal Dance, also distributed internationally by MoonJune. Tohpati is on three tracks of Dwiki’s full album on which Jerry Goodman, the violinist in the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, will be added to one track.
Jakarta was suffering the after effects of the previous day’s floods, so there had been fraught conversations about whether the gig was going to be happening. I got there at 7, ready for the gig at 8. As the audience settled in, it was clear that this was more of a generational family gathering than a public affair. Wives and selebritis wore their finest public garb; fellow MoonJune artists Ligro, rising stars in Indonesia’s jazz firmament Sri ‘Aga’ Hanuraga and Elfa Zulham, other musos, assorted promoters and sponsors, recording studio technicians et al, students from Dwiki’s network of Farabi Music Schools, MoonJune’s Indonesia representative Arlo Hennings, and your scribe: we were all there for the occasion and obrolan (society gossip).
The show opened with a group of Farabi Rising Stars, who certainly are. As a group, they gelled, each proving their grasp of technique and jazz genres. Alifar Ikram (bass), Bima Adhitama (drums) and Syaravi Dewanda (guitar) deserved the applause for their solo spots. On piano was Yarra Annes who proved that she can hold an audience with her singing too. However, my eyes and ears were caught by young Fakhri. Centre stage, this diminutive figure was playing electric violin with astonishing fluidity. Depending on the music flow, he reminded me at times of Geoff Richardson of Caravan and Jerry Goodman of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
(In conversation after the show, it was agreed that Fakhri has the potential to match the international profile of Luluk Purwanto, long resident in the Netherlands.)
With an audio-visual backdrop, which included the names of the group members, Dewa having lost the ‘D’ in Budjana, Dwiki launched himself energetically at his array of keyboards, which included a moog, Hammond organ and Korg. Following the order of tracks on the distributed CD, this was Return Of The Lamafa. If it hadn’t been for his jeans and black shirt, I would have been reminded of the theatrics of Rick Wakeman in Yes mode. However, perhaps his dexterity owed more to Keith Emerson of ELP.
Yes, this was prog-rock, a reminder of one of the foundations of Indonesia’s current creative jazz scene.
The next tune was, according to the back screen image, NYC 2050, and I began to focus on the thunderous rhythm section while Dwiki moodled on his moog. Dewa appeared to be the only one not reading from the chart, but it was clear that the empathy between all that Chad and Jimmy had survived their trans-oceanic journeys.
Bromo was calmer with Dewa introducing the distance views across the plain with an ethereal ambient calm, with the organ swelling before taking the lead. The audio-visual meditation was soon displaced as the volcano erupted.
Dwiki then spent a few minutes at the mike thanking all and sundry for coming, and cajoling Tohpati to come up on stage and join the band.
With Dark Of The Light, the band caught fire. Chad and Jimmy made up the trio for Tohpati’s Tribal Dance, and he is good mates with Dewa; the three guitarists cut loose from their charts thus setting up some really fine grooving. Dwiki joined in on Hammond and moog, and with Chad behind propelling everyone along and Tohpati keeping up a constant fast one note strum in sync with the bass, we experienced the power of an express train. Wow … and I regret that the track on the CD doesn’t have the same intensity.
Whale Dance washed over me, but the closing number, Arafura, didn’t. The tune along with Dwiki’s playing reminded me of Dave Sinclair of Caravan in some passages. Dewa and Tohpati were a duo of duelling guitars with a telepathic understanding. Jimmy Haslip on his 6 string bass demonstrated power, and why he is one of my favourite fusion jazz bassists. It was then the turn of Chad to be the crowd pleaser. I noted at the beginning of his spot that I’m not a fan of drum solos, but I was soon locked in; how could he keep up that driving double off beat for so long? Did he have two bass drums? For once, rightly impressed at Chad’s dexterity, I joined in the crowd’s loud applause while the band played on.
All in all, it made for a fascinating evening in a great venue, one I hadn’t been in before. At times the music captured me, and at other moments I quietly observed the two guys who sat next to me. They had arrived too late to set up their gear for the anticipated DVD of the evening, so they focussed on their texting machines, only looking at the stage when Chad had his spotlighted moment.
After the show, I complimented Dwiki on having pulled together the evening in such a short time, and wished him well for the next two gigs, in Bandung and Bali.
I hope the full album proves to be a grower, and has more of the dynamism we witnessed live.