Borneo Jazz, May 12-15, 2011
Introducing "Song of the Seashore," Tokuda told the crowd: "The tsunami broke everything, but we still love the oceanwe need the ocean." Tokuda's vocals on a gently waltzing song were weighted with emotion, and the language barrier was irrelevant as he connected with the audience in a strangely moving way; strange, because this poetic ode to the oceanbeautiful yet melancholycame so soon after the devastation visited upon Japan. Tokuda's soprano solo in the mid section of the song was tender, forgiving. At song's end it was doubtful whether the two women from Miri working in Bruneior anyone elsecared whether this song classified as jazz or not. However, the cheers that rang out throughout Ralyzz Dig's performance and the tremendous reception the band received at the end, underlined the Borneo Jazz crowd's clear appreciation for no-frills, straight ahead jazz.
The lush grounds of the Park City Everly Hotel abut the sea, and spectacular sunsets seared the sky a myriad of colors each evening. Between performances festival goers could indulge in a variety of tasty local cuisine or enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine. Stalls selling colorful prints, t-shirts and locally crafted jewelry, as well as CDs of the festival artists were doing brisk business, and the tattoo stall was leaving an indelible mark of Borneo on the appendages of many, with its array of striking, traditional ethnic symbols. Systa BB from RRR Melbourne made sure that the good vibes never stopped, spinning tremendously funky tunes from the dance pavilion; heavy African beats, Latin colors, or the intoxicating mix of bassist Jah Wobble and morlam from North-East Thailand/Laos filled the night air, and had a large portion of the crowd dancing hard in front of the stage.
The most urban sounding music of Borneo Jazz '11 was provided by Dutch band State of Monc. It has been going for fifteen years and plots a musical course heavily steered by the influence of trumpeter Miles Davis, to some degree Weather Report, electronica, bands like Orbital, and the dubstep movement. However, as trumpeter Arthur Flink said prior to the concert: "We take something from everything we hear." Hielke Praagam's electronics informed much of the music, creating ambient waves and driving dance beats. Flink played Miles to soprano saxophonist Bernardus Van Den Dungen's Dave Liebman, and the two dovetailed closely throughout the set, with Flink's staccato bursts contrasting with the longer, sinewy lines of the saxophonist. Splashes of keyboard from Praagam added to the Miles Davis feel of the music, building a bridge from late '60s/early '70s electronic Miles to his electric '80s period. However, like Swiss trumpeter Erik Truffaz, Flink is channeling Davis' influence into quite personal terrain.
A funk-heavy underbelly was created by bassist Kasper Kalf, whose grooving ostinatos and minimalist dub lines worked particularly well on the slower sections. Drummer Tuur Moens worked hard throughout the set and brought intensity to the quartet sound, driving the front line of Flink and Den Dungen. Flink's mute changed the dynamics quite nicely, particularly over a trip-hop section, and though his playing was excellent, the lion's share of the soloing was left to Den Dungen whose fluid lines provided the best saxophone playing of the weekend. If Miles had lived another decade, and presuming his lung power didn't diminish further than it had by the time he died in '91two rather large ifshe might well have ventured in a similar direction to State of Monc.
However, at almost any jazz festival, whether straight ahead or less orthodox, the presence of Miles is nearly always felt. In a way, State of Monc carries on his legacy, and in its own way, fuses jazz with diverse urban rhythms and sounds to create something totally other.