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Dewa Budjana (with Jimmy Johnson & Vinnie Colaiuta): Surya Namaskar

Ian Patterson By

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Guitarist Dewa Budjana's two releases on MoonJune Records in 2013, Dawai in Paradise and Joged Kahyangan introduced a talented musician whose Indonesian roots dovetailed with prog rock, jazz fusion and a melodic pop sensibility; Budjana showed tremendous chops but, as he demonstrates once again, he's perhaps primarily a tunesmith. Budjana draws from a similar well of influences on this recording but in contrast to Joged Kahyangan's charts Surya Namaskar boasts a freer, less constructed vibe with Budjana's solos coarser in tone. Mostly recorded in single-takes with some additional overdubbing, everything that Budjana touches—whether composed or improvised—is fundamentally melodic.

On this, the first of two releases penciled in for 2014, the prolific—by modern standards—guitarist is lent cracking rhythmic impetus by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist Jimmy Johnson. Given the wide variety of contexts in which Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell) and Johnson (Allan Holdsworth, James Taylor) have played over the years, it's little wonder they drive Budjana's tunes with verve, and when required, great finesse.

It's a dream rhythm team and the perfect foil for Budjana, whose original material exhibits frequent shifts in tempo and weight. In general, the compositions are characterized by motivic chains that wed pop melodicism and prog rock gravitas; at times, as on the sophisticated yet lively rocker "Lamboya" the effect is like a happy splice between The Police and King Crimson.

Gary Husband—a long-time collaborator with Johnson in Holdsworth's groups—plays synthesizer in tight unison with Budjana on the jaunty "Fifty," before the two trade solos; the guitarist's firey, fuzz-toned fretwork contrasts with Husband's clean, sinewy run. The pair reunites towards the end, jamming on a riff as Colaiuta raises his own steam. On "Duaji & Guruji," layered guitar lines add harmonic depth while a killer motif bookends Budjana and Johnson's measured solo excursions. The slower "Capistrano Road" simmers like a Jeff Beck instrumental ballad; Budjana caresses the melody patiently before teasing out a solo that roams between coiled tension and free flight.

Indonesia folk music has long been a feature of Budjana's writing in greater or lesser measure; "Kalinga" brings together Kang Pupung's tarawangsa (Sundanese violin), Kang Iya's Kacapi (Sundanese harp) and Mang Ayi's wordless vocal in a purely folkloric intro. Fastening onto the haunting melody, the infusion of electricity transforms the piece—lyrical and rushing, powerful and delicate in turn. Budjana's tearing solo—arguably his most electrifying of the set—is the jewel in a stirring tune. On the subtly melodic "Campuhan Hill," Budjana displays a fleet, light touch on acoustic guitar.

The title track, which translates as "Salute the Sun" is a fairly simple but striking melodic venture and features a bluesy electric solo from Michael Landau, while Budjana quietly comps on acoustic. The millennium-old ties between Indonesia and India surface on "Dalem Waturenggong"; ancient melodic roots merge with modern rhythms and timbres in a potent fusion, with Johnson and Budjana's lyricism to the fore.

Tuneful at heart, when Budjana has the wind in the sails there's also an undeniable, visceral power in his music. It's a potent combination that invites and rewards repeated listening.

Track Listing: Fifty; Duaji & Guruji; Capistrano Road; Lamboya; Kalingga; Campuhan Hill; Surya Namaskar; Dalem Waturenggong.

Personnel: Dewa Budjana: electric and acoustic guitars; Jimmy Johnson: bass guitar; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Gary Husband: synthesizer (1); Kang Pupung: tarawangsa (Sundanese violin) (5); Kang Iya: Kacapi (Sundanese harp) (5); Mang Ayi: vocals (5); Michael Landau: electric guitar (7).

Title: Surya Namaskar | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Moonjune Records


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