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Dewa Budjana: Zentuary

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Indonesian composer, guitarist and bandleader Dewa Budjana's tenth release (and his first on guitarist Steve Vai's label Favored Nations in association with Budjana's usual label, MoonJune) reviews, consolidates and advances his sound. Budjana's three decades of performing and recording, including collaborations with jazz A-listers as Peter Erskine, Joe Locke and Larry Goldings, are worth the retrospective. Even better, Budjana celebrates this milestone release with most likely his best band ever—drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist/stickman Tony Levin and drummer and keyboardist Gary Husband—so his future seems just as bright.

It's tempting to write that, by surrounding himself with such exceptional players—and guests including saxophonist Tim Garland (Bill Bruford, Chick Corea), the Czech Symphony Orchestra (CSO), and Indonesian vocalists Risa Saraswati and Ubiet and flutist/vocalist Saat Syah—Budjana has created his most jazz-y release. But that does no justice to the astounding depth and breadth and vision of this music. There's something genuinely, organically global about Zentuary, a true distillation of jazz and native music, a new "third stream" for the new millennium.

As you listen to "Suniakala," which features the CSO, you feel yourself drawn into something as alive and deep as mysterious as an ocean. Levin's "Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky)" features Indonesian flute and percussion around Saraswati's lush Sudanese vocal, her voice as the lead actress' soliloquy against the band's instrumental chorus, until Budjana's soaring guitar threatens to actually put a "crack in the sky." "Dedariku" also features Indonesian flute, to introduce an Indo-Chinese sound.

DeJohnette rolls and tumbles through disc two like a rock drummer in his jazzman's chair. He and Levin grab "Pancaroba" by the throat and plunge it into metallic rock power chords. You could build an entire skyscraper atop his rhythmic foundation to "Manhattan Temple," thundering and explosive lines which conjure the primal force that was drummer Elvin Jones. Jones' ghost also haunts "Uncle Jack," DeJohnette's tour-de-force on acoustic piano, electronics and drums. DeJohnette the drummer knows just where/how to boot DeJohnette the pianist in the booty with the beat, and "Uncle Jack" sounds just as much like pianist Cecil Taylor as drummer DeJohnette.

"I conceived the term 'Zentuary' by combining the words Zen and Sanctuary. For me, it summarizes my lifelong journey —through my life and along my musical path," Budjana writes in this set's notes. "Uncle Jack, Mr. Tony and Brother Gary, thank you for accompanying me on this fabulous musical adventure!" Zentuary is an enduring postcard of snapshots from their fantastic voyage.

Track Listing: CD1: Dancing Tears; Solas PM; Lake Takengon; Sunikala; Dear Yulman; Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky). CD2: Pancaroba; Manhattan Temple; Dedariku; Ujung Galuh; Uncle Jack; Zentuary.

Personnel: Dewa Budjana: all guitars, soundscapes; Tony Levin: electric upright NS Design bass (CD1#1-5, CD2#1-5), Chapman Stick (CD1#6); Gary Husband: drums (CD1#1-2, CD1#4, CD1#6, CD2#1, CD2#4-5); keyboards and acoustic piano (CD1, CD2#1-4); Jack DeJohnette: drums (CD1#3, CD1#5, CD2#2-3), acoustic piano (CD2#5); Danny Markovitch: curved soprano saxophone (CD1#2, CD2#4); Tim Garland: tenor saxophone (CD2#2); Guthrie Govan: guitar solo (CD1#4); Saat Syah: custom-made Indonesian suling flute (CD1#6, CD2#3); Ubiet: vocals (CD1#3); Risa Saraswati: vocals (CD1#6); Czech Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michaela Růžičková: orchestra (CD1#4, CD2#6).

Title: Zentuary | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Favored Nations


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