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Dewa Budjana: Joged Kahyangan

Ian Patterson By

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A million-selling artist in Indonesia with pop-rock band Gigi, guitarist Dewa Budjana's solo projects informed by progressive rock, Indonesian folk and jazz fusion reveal a greater spirit of adventure. Budjana's second release of 2013 on the MoonJune label following Dawai in Paradise is similarly melodic, though differs significantly. Firstly, the word-fusion-meets-prog rock of Dawai in Paradise gives way to a more overtly contemporary jazz approach on Joged Kahyangan. Secondly, whereas the earlier release featured predominantly Indonesian musicians, Budjana harnesses heavyweight North American jazz musicians here, yielding a distinctly more Western— though equally personal—aesthetic.

Budjana's sixth solo release boasts considerable compositional depth; numerous subtleties in the arrangements characterize these eight originals. The guitarist dovetails with saxophonist Bob Mintzer throughout, while pianist/organist Larry Goldings adds a range of textures and dynamics on piano and organ. Former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Jimmy Johnson provide finely attuned rhythmic drive that oscillates in intensity as Budjana switches between electric and acoustic guitar.

Melodicism is central to Budjana's writing, making Mintzer the perfect match, and it wouldn't take a great leap of the imagination to envisage the elegant "Foggy Cloud" gracing a Yellowjackets album. Inspired by the spectacular setting of Jazz Gunung, perched among the clouds and active volcanic mountains of East Java, a smidgen of Indonesian metallic percussion on the intro makes the connection. Mintzer, Budjana and Goldings all take brief, lyrical solos, each bridged by a recurring motif, before reuniting on the memorable head. "Joged Kahyangan"—literally "Dancing Heaven"—is Budjana's tribute to the beauty of Indonesia. Acoustic guitar and piano weave intricate patterns over Erskine's light beat as Mintzer's bass clarinet sings.

In a country teeming with great musicians Budjana enjoys a reputation as one of Indonesia's premier guitarists and he displays considerable chops on two of the more dynamic tracks, "Dang Hyang Story" and "Majik Blue." Here, melodic hooks, heavy riffs and short yet charged solos blur the lines between rock and jazz in similar vein to guitarist Trevor Rabin's exceptional Jacaranda (Varese Fontana, 2012). The sentimental "As You Leave My Nest"—sung by Manhattan Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel—and its instrumental blueprint "Borra's Ballad" reveal Budjana's more introspective side. The latter in particular leans towards the delicate pastoralism of guitarist Pat Metheny.

The loping "Erskoman"—with Mintzer sitting out—is dedicated to Erskine, whose collaborations with Budjana go back to 2002. The drummer features prominently on this episodic number where Goldings stretches out on Hammond organ followed by a mazy, captivating solo from Budjana. Johnson's Afro-beat motif kick starts the celebratory "Guru Mandala," giving way to a vaguely Eastern aesthetic. Layered acoustic and electric guitar, an infectious saxophone/electric guitar hook and a vocal mantra combine powerfully on this anthemic number.

Joged Kanyangan is instantly appealing but only gives up its multiple charms upon repeated listening. Recorded in just one day, this impressive calling card also hints at greater things to come. With two further recordings scheduled for 2014, the first with Johnson, keyboardist Gary Husband and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, the second with vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Antonio Sanchez, Budjana' star is clearly in the ascendancy.

Track Listing: Foggy Cloud; Joged Kahyangan; Dang Hyang Story; As You Leave My Nest; Majik Blue; Erskoman; Guru Mandala; Borra’s Ballad.

Personnel: Dewa Budjana: guitar, synth guitar; Larry Goldings: Hammond organ, acoustic piano; Bob Mintzer: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jimmy Johnson: bass guitar; Peter Erskine: drums; Janis Siegal: vocal (4).

Title: Joged Kahyangan | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Moonjune Records

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