Get used to thinking of Southeast Asia as the new hotbed of fascinating and original guitar players. Indigenous guitar- and mandolin-like stringed instruments and improvisation have played a pivotal role in the native music of the region for centuries. Adaptation and mastery of western styles was inevitable, and a cursory search of YouTube will reveal hundreds of contemporary videos featuring Southeast Asian guitar shredders of every musical persuasion.
One of the very finest guitarists in the region is Tohpati Ario Hutomo from Jakarta, Indonesia. Riot
clearly shows that he's been soaking up all sorts of jazz, rock and funk influences. While his prior work with the groups simakDialog
and Tohpati Ethnomission
explores the interfaces between jazz, Indonesian, and Balinese ethnic musics, Bertiga is a heavy-hitting jazz-rock power trio. Tohpati's readily identifiable guitar style pulls together diverse influences, including Allan Holdsworth
, Eric Johnson
, Jeff Beck
, and Stevie Ray Vaughan
, into a highly personal and cohesive style. While he's certainly a jazz-oriented player, his work on Riot
is gloriously impure and full of bluesy grit. Most refreshingly, he's not just about chops.
With extensive experience as a session man backing Indonesian pop stars, Tohpati is a seasoned performer who really knows how to pace and shape an interesting, dramatic guitar solo. A case in point is his solo on "Lost In Space," a lesson in spareness and stark emotion.
The other members of the trio are equally accomplished. Tohpati's been playing with the remarkable bassist Indro Hardjodikoro since his professional career began. Also a member of Ethnomission, Hardjodikoro is the James Jamerson
of Indonesia his grooves are deeper than the Marianas Trench and he can wail like Jaco Pastorius
or Jeff Berlin
. Drummer Adityo Wibowo also possesses some major-league fusion chops as well as an uncanny sense of where the pocket is in Tohpati's mercurial, ever-changing, odd-metered compositions.
What really comes across on Riot
is the trio's happy-go- lucky, freewheeling nature. Tohpati doesn't take himself too seriouslyhe humorously threads snippets of classic rock songs throughout "Rock Camp." The CD was recorded live in the studio, and the informal, relaxed feel of the music is reinforced by occasional snippets of laughter and dialogue between the songs. Some may find this a distraction, but it lends a certain sort of "audio vérité" to the proceedingsas if you're there in the studio, hanging out. With its unassuming warmth and undeniable artistry, Riot
is a breath of fresh air in the rarefied world of fusion music.