simakDialog's Demi Masa, one of the best releases of 2009, rejuvenates fusion music and takes it to an entirely new level.
The soloists are extraordinarily good on this combination of guitars, electric bass guitar, and keyboards with Indonesian kedang percussion, assisted by percussionist/vocalist Emy Tata, singer Mian Tiara and soundscapist Dave Lumentabut more on this later.
The remarkable thing about the group's percussion team is how tight and well-integrated it is within simakDialog's sound. It sets up an underpinning closer to a drum kit than standard percussion. The kedangalong with toys and other itemscushion and push the other instruments rather than punctuating the sound, which is more often the case.
Although there are certain similarities to mid-'70s jazz-fusion, simakDialog's unorthodox rhythm section subverts the analogy, and the group shows a greater affinity to some of the more tasteful manifestations of jazz-rock, including Weather Report and Return to Forever. But keyboardist Riza Arshad and guitarist Tohpati Aryo Hutomo (aka Tohpati) have a more interesting pedigree, whether or not the band realizes it. There are marked similarities to bands like British Canterbury bands Hatfield and the North and National Health, especially in simakDialog's use of guitar lines that rely more on invention than flash. The keyboards, in all their analog glory, demonstrate a unique warmth and harmonic integrity. While by no means identical to the work of Hatfield/National Health's Phil Miller and Dave Stewart, there's a similar stress on development of individual voices.
Equally, the group is unafraid to incorporate dissonance. Tohpati, in particular, knows when to throw in bloodcurdling electric clusters as needed to enhance the mood, and Arshad sets up some wonderfully sensitive electric piano accompaniment, as well as being a fine soloist. Bassist Adhitya Pratama knows how to lay a foundation, but sets the band up for solos that have an orientation more aligned with progressive rock than jazz-rock. The compositions are really compositions, and not simply riff generators.
simakDialog has real energy and chops and should go very far. Demi Masa is a distinct improvement over Patahan (MoonJune, 2007), an album that nevertheless proved simakDialog to already be an exceptional group.
Track Listing: Salilana Pertama (Forever, Part 1); Salilana Kedua (Forever, Part 2); Tak Jauh Pertama (Not So Far, Part 1); Tak Jauh Kedua (Not So Far, Part 2); Trah Lor - Laras (Northern People - Voices); Trah Lor -Rupa (Northern People - Faces); Trah Lor - Tapak (Northern People - Prints); Karuhun (To Elders); Disapih (Separate Away).
Personnel: Riza Arshad: Fender Rhodes electric piano, Yamaha acoustic grand piano,
Oberheim OBX analog synth; Tohpati: electric and acoustic guitar;
Adhithya Pratama: bass guitar; Endang Ramdan: lead Sundanese kendang
percussion, tambourine, claps, toys, vocals; Erlan Suwardana: Sundanese kendang percussion, claps, toys, vocals; Emy Tata: Sundanese
kendang percussion, claps and vocals (2); Mian Tiara: vocals (7); Dave Lumenta: soundscapes (8).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.