As much as 2020 was a lemon, it was quite the fruitful year for jazz and fusion records. The vault had been closed, sealed, and bolted shut for the year, until a spirit swept the room. Under the heading of 'saving the best for last' or a 'hail Mary,' the magical journey of Flying Spirits
(Blue Canoe, 2020) was in the air, in the ear, and enriching the mind. The record brought together virtuoso level guitarists, Nicolas Meier
and Dewa Budjana
. The record features ten original compositions, five written by Meier and five by Budjana.
Indonesian Budjana and the Swiss-born now UK-resident Meier are both in double digits with their own solo fusion and jazz records. While bringing variant skills and knowledge to the project, a love and mastery of World Music is the thread that binds. Their musical fluency extends to Middle Eastern, Turkish, flamenco, rock, and well beyond. Both are influenced by guitar God Jeff Beck
, while Meier also fires off with a flamenco flare. Enrichments of the likes of John McLaughlin
and Pat Metheny
also emerge from Budjana.
The possibility of clutter comes to mind when merging musicians with such vast skill sets and range. That thought is quickly dispersed with a recording which is engineered with a broadness of space that coincides with the infinite nature of the musical odyssey itself. A space that would have accommodated a much larger ensemble was explored, traveled, and enriched vividly by a quintet that also included the illuminatingly brilliant suling renderings of Saat Syah
, the energetic and intricate drumming of Asas Sikis, and fusion bass giant Jimmy Haslip
. This is a quintet in the truest sense of the word. Meier and Budjana stretch with an exquisite bevy of sounds, fury, and abandon, while the others add an equal fabric to the density, and rich layers developed on Flying Spirits
A flute sculpted out of bamboo or lighter textured wood, a suling is generally indigenous to Indonesia and surrounding areas of the world. They are hand carved by Syah in the forests of Borneo. He emerges with a magical equipment bag that enables him to reach notes on a variety of scales or sometimes wander adventurously into uncharted territory.
To over-analyze every song or to cherry pick songs would be to miss the larger picture. As mentioned earlier, this is a journey, maze-like trip that moves through many passages, changes, and diverse elements, creating an opportunity to take the brain on that much needed vacation. We may be on lockdown physically, but these happy and deep spirits can positively alter your headspace. To not listen to this record in its entirety is to rob yourself of its core. Meier's engagingly evolved acoustic is heard in perfect symmetry with Budjana's nuanced and intense electric. Both are adjoined with the extraordinary inflections and evocatively hybrid sounds of Syah.
This mesh of jazz, fusion, and Middle Eastern flavored World Music wouldn't fly without being steered and driven by Sikis and Haslip. Both imparted key elements with their complex interplay and dynamics. They provided exceptionally wide, seemingly infinite, boundaries that expanded the palette for Meier, Budjana, and Syah to freely, without limitations, delve intently into their spiritual souls.
Yes, the vault was gladly reopened to welcome the most enchanting Flying Spirits
to its rightful place among the shortlist of 2020's finest.
Flying Spirits; Ganga; Gschwend Trees; Jayaprana; Joged Kahyangen; Peaceful; Riversides; Tales