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Live Reviews

Jazz Gunung 2010, Bromo, Indonesia

By Published: July 15, 2010
The other musicians then dropped out to leave the four voices center stage to interpret the classic Maschwitz/Sherwin/Strachey composition "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," a tune covered by everyone from Vera Lyn, Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
, The Manhattan Transfer to Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
. To almost complete silence from the audience the vocal quartet gave a harmonically rich interpretation which was warmly received. Although stylistically speaking, Androginn are influenced by the great American vocal ensembles previously referred to, and swing and jazz standards too, it was noteworthy that five out of seven compositions performed by Androginn were by Indonesian composers, which hints at the depth of music in Indonesia, a country of two hundred and twenty five million people. An enjoyable set concluded with "Bebaskan," a soul-infused number which featured short but grooving solos from guitar, keyboard and saxophone.

With clouds enveloping the festival site, deep incantations like animist chants announced the beginning of an extremely brief set by local gamelan musicians Wargo Budaya, joined on a deceptively expressive two-stringed guitar by Djaduk Ferianto. Gently rumbling percussion over a bass drum pulse provided a base from which Ferianto developed a vaguely psychedelic improvisation. Chants drifted in and out and a battery of five small xylophones sounded like wind chimes as the piece built to a climax, with long cries released into the mountain air. Hauntingly captivating.

Djaduk Ferianto & Wargo Budaya

The altogether more earthly Monday Night Band from the Jazz Community of Jogja brought some swinging grooves and familiar tunes to Jazz Gunung. The opening notes of "Night and Day" sung by Sita brought a loud cheer from an audience well familiar with jazz standards. With drummer Benny and bassist Danny steering the band, pianist Andy Gomez gave a short but bluesy solo. Sita took up the reins again, accompanied by the saxophone of Jay Afrisando and the song finished on a rousing note.

Guitarist Bon Bon stepped to the forefront with a tasteful solo on the upbeat "Happy Again" and the band continued by launching into Sade's "Smooth Operator;" a quite personal rendition of this song was noteworthy for an extended guitar improvisation and a lively beat which rebranded the song. A quietly stated version of Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
's "Corcovado" saw vocalist Rere taking over singing duties and featured another nice solo from Bon Bon. Less convincing vocally was an awkward sounding version of the Beatles "Come Together," which seems to have become something of a standard for every house band in the Far East, though the slow burning instrumental passage featuring piano, guitar and bass injected some adrenalin into the tune.

The placing of clay pots of flaming coals in front of the front benches was a sign that the temperature was dropping still further, though a fifteen minute version of "Fever" went some way to warming the crowd. The song, perhaps best associated with Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
1920 - 2002
vocalist
has been recorded and performed over the years by everyone from Grateful Dead to the Spice Girls and is well known to Indonesian audiences too. The enthusiasm of the audience for the most adventurous solos of the set, first from Gomez and then from Jay on saxophone, underlined that this audience welcomed the musicians stretching out.

The honor of closing the festival fell to Syaharani & QueenFireworks, otherwise known as ESQI:EF. Vocalist Syaharani has a reputation as one of Indonesia's finest jazz singers, though in truth the tag rather limits her, for the range of music she sings touches upon jazz, pop, soul, funk and hip-hop. Whatever style she is singing in however, she possesses a voice with the deep strength and soul of Annie Lennox. Her set, by far the longest of the day at around an hour and a half began with a version of Hoagy Carmichael's much covered 1938 classic "The Nearness of You," with veteran guitarist Danny Suhendra providing deft accompaniment on acoustic guitar.

Much of the material came from the excellent crossover album Anytime (Demajors Records, 2010) and the performance fizzed with the tremendous energy emanating from Syaharani's larger-than-life persona. Following the gentle opener the band let rip with the outstanding "Picnic to the Sky," a pop anthem of epic proportions which featured a call and response section between singer and audience. On this driving number the full force of Syaharani's vocals were felt and her voice no doubt soared far down the valley.

Syaharani


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