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Live Reviews

Borneo Jazz 2012

By Published: May 29, 2012
Formed in mid-2011, the young band wouldn't have surprised anyone by performing only covers. but in fact, the original compositions stole the show, impressing for their melodic flow and patient construction. This, and the combination of saxophone, electric guitar and Timothy Toh's jazzy piano, evoked the anthemic spirit of Scandinavian group Jazz Kamikaze, particularly on "What's in a Name" and "Tinkerbelle," where the music built slowly to epic finales. Miri boy, guitarist Dean Sim's clean, R&B-influenced lines dovetailed with saxophonist Jeffrey Kamar and the two exhibited a fine balance between passion and discipline.

The rhythm section of bassist Feri Lau and drummer Omar Ibrahim was solid throughout, moving smoothly from rocked-out to funkier grooves as on "Trip It," a Grover Washington-sounding number. F.V.E. takes its inspiration where it finds it, as an instrumental version of Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music" proved. Another melodic slice of Indie jazz laced with keen soloing closed a crowd-pleasing set. F.V.E has its own sound, as much influenced by R&B and smooth jazz as by Indie rock and pop. With encouragement and the necessary support, these accomplished musicians have a bright future ahead of them.

After devoting twenty years of her life to classical piano, Indonesian pianist Nita Aartsen began developing the jazz idiom in her playing. However, it was hearing trumpeter Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval
that really changed Aartsen's artistic direction and she was soon incorporating Latin jazz into her music as well. Adi Prasodjo's congas and shakers set the tone for some heated playing from Aartsen on the opening number, which incorporated the melody from Mozart's Symphony Number 40. The pianist also slipped Beethoven's "Für Elise" in between the salsa rhythms of the stirring "Good Times" and "Minuet in G" by Bach into the gently swinging finale "Selamanya."

Aartsen displayed considerable chops with a sweeping command of her keys, though her interpretations of classical music were occasionally just a tad too literal to be really engaging; the same could be said for her take on pianist Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
's "Blue Rondo à la Turk." Much more satisfying was Aartsen's original interpretation of John Coltrane's "Naima." Prasadjo's emotionally charged Indian vocals—accompanied by wind chimes and percolating percussion—brought cheers from the crowd. Switching between acoustic and electric piano, Aartsen steered the quartet into heady jazz fusion territory reminiscent of Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report


Bassist Adi Darmawan and drummer Sandy Winarta had to be at the top of their game to follow the pianist, who switched tempo and tone with regularity. Winarta is much touted in Indonesia as one of jazz's most exciting emerging drummers, and he lived up to his billing, with an energized, technically impressive display. Stage lights and the very high humidity meant that Aartsen and her quartet's tremendous energy resulted in pools of sweat on the stage; it's safe to say the quartet was cooking in more ways than one.

There must be an unholy number of truly outstanding a capella groups in Germany if SLIXS was billed in the festival program as "one of the best" in the country, as witnessing their polyphonic acrobatics it's difficult to imagine a more exciting, or fun a capella group. Until recently the sextet had been called Stouxsingers, but as most folks were unable to pronounce the name correctly, the name was dropped in favor of the shorter, slicker SLIXS.

The term a capella comes from Italian and means "in the style of the church." Certainly, if church was as sexy, jaw-dropping and fun as SLIXS' performance, then church attendance would be increasing rather than declining—as is the trend—in Europe. The sextet kicked off in funk mode with Prince's "Sign of the Times." Gregorio Hernandez on lead vocal was buoyed by "drummer" Karsten Muller and "bassist" Thomas Piontek, who could justifiably have been in the running for best rhythm section of the festival award.

Group founder and "arranger of silliness," Michael Eimann, was direct in his assessment of the group's influences during the morning press conference: "It's a bastard of all styles," he stated happily. Indeed, what other name could you give to a group that incorporates jazz, pop, funk, gospel, R&B, choral, soul, boogie, scat and the odd William Shakespeare sonnet?

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