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Dwiki Dharmawan: Rumah Batu

Ian Patterson By

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Dwiki Dharmawan's international debut, So Far So Close (MoonJune Records) (2016), pitted the Indonesian pianist with Jimmy Haslip, Chad Wackerman and Indonesian six-string maestros Thopati and Dewa Budjana in a mostly conventional jazz-fusion setting. On Pasar Klewer (2017) Dharmawan gave vent to his incredibly broad compositional palette, with a genre-bending mash-up featuring Jerry Goodman, Mark Wingfield, Yaron Stavi, Asaf Sirkis, Gilad Atzmon, plus Indonesian percussionists and vocalists. Rumah Bata, whilst as ambitious and as stylistically varied as its predecessor, is a more satisfyingly focused affair. Lean yet complex in its layers, highly melodic yet rhythmically charged, Dharmawan's writing brings the best out of another stellar ensemble, resulting in arguably his most cohesive and rewarding work to date.

The set gets off to a flyer with the feisty, Latin-jazz and flamenco-flavored "Rintak Rebana." A typically sizzling Nguyen Le solo gives way to Dharmawan's more measured intervention, while the Sirkis-Stavi rhythmic fulcrum is lent a fascinating extra dimension by the simmering lines of Paco De Lucia's long-standing electric bassist Carles Benveant. Sa'at Syah's suling flute and bursts of Indonesian percussion add spice to the mix. Dharmawan and Lê's chops are once more to the fore on "Paris Barantai," another episodic journey marked by undulating rhythmic waves and contrasting atmospheres, with Syah's vocals and flute leaving an indelible imprint.

There's greater lyrical emphasis on "Impenan," a slower number steered by the gloriously yearning vocals of Dewa Gita. Syah's flute dovetails freely with the singer's soaring flight on this uplifting folkloric epic. Dharmawan's arrangement of the Balinese traditional tune "Janger" is primarily a celebration of melody, peppered with short improvisations from piano and guitar, and tightly woven unison lines. Dharmawan's genre-defying, pan-global vision is encapsulated in the two-part "Rumah Batu" suite, a sprawling twenty-seven minutes of chanting, ululations, ethnic funk, rattling percussion, ethereal plateaus, driving ensemble grooves and tumultuous piano work from the leader. It's an extraordinary, vibrant marriage between Eastern and Western sensibilities and one that underlines Dharmawan's expansive compositional vision.

The spacious intro to the pretty "Samarkand" foregrounds the dual basses to notable effect, though it's not long before the rhythmic gears shift, ushering in animated back-and-forth salvos between Dharmawan and Lê. "Selamatkan Orang Utan," a cheery homage to the great apes of Borneo and Sumatra, sees Le conjure textures evocative of the lute-like sape common to the ethnically diverse tribes of central Borneo, while Syah's flute and wordless vocals weave a merry dance.

With Ruman Batu Dharmawan eschews the psychedelic and esoteric touches that occasionally overstretched the, nevertheless, frequently brilliant Pasar Klewer. Instead, with a greater clarity of conceptual vision, Dharmawan distils the Indonesia folkloric, jazz and fusion elements to more consistently potent effect. The result is music that's as organic sounding as it is refreshingly original.

Track Listing: Rintak Rebana; Paris Barantai; Impenan; Janger; Rumah Batu Suite Part 1 - Kaili; Rumah Batu Suite Part 2 - Parjelanan; Samarkand; Selamatkan Orang Utan.

Personnel: Dwiki Dharmawan: acoustic piano; Nguyên Lê: electric guitar, soundscapes; Charles Benavent: bass guitar; Yaron Stavi: upright bass; Asaf Sirkis: drums; Sa'at Syah: suling flute and vocals (1-4, 7-8); Ade Rudiana: kendang percussion (1-4, 7-8); Dewi Gita: lead vocal (3); Teuku Hariansya: Rapa’I Acehnese percussions (1); Indra Maulana Keubitbit: Rapa’I Acehnese percussions (1); Nyoman Windha's Gamelan Jass Jegog: Balinese gamelan & percussions (4); Smit: vocals and LaLove traditional Sulawesi flute (6).

Title: Rumah Batu | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MoonJune Records

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