‘Zentuary’ – Dewa Budjana (2CD)

zentuary

BALINESE electric guitarist Dewa Budjana seems to be a man on a mission. High-energy jazz-rock artistry pours from him like there’s no tomorrow! For latest double album Zentuary (follow-up to 2015’s Hasta Karma) he calls on a core, western powerhouse of bassist Tony Levin and drummer/keyboardists Gary Husband and Jack DeJohnette, as well as guests including saxophonists Tim Garland and Danny Markovich.

Major influences on Budjana’s career are iconic guitarists John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny; and such transmitted dynamism, coupled with heady, colourful infusions of Indonesian culture, provides the foundations for these one hundred minutes of intense, original composition and improvisation. With Bali some 8,000 miles from the UK, the guitarist’s often anthemic soundscapes traverse geographic borders – in music, what borders? – with ease, providing a window on exotic vocals, textures and rhythms. The scale of the project might initially feel pretty overwhelming, and perhaps Zentuary (the guitarist’s contrived word, melding ‘zen’ and ‘sanctuary’) could more easily be considered and digested as an entire, continuous movie soundtrack. In fact, Budjana thinks big, even taking the opportunity to incorporate sessions with the Czech Symphony Orchestra.

By turns, these twelve particularly expansive tracks are exhilarating and mysterious, Dancing Tears immediately chasing pace and bubbling to Tony Levin’s signature Chapman Stick bass. Budjana is undoubtedly a ‘guitar star’, his breathless, varying explorations of the fretboard shining out above thunderous rock drumming; and Solas PM‘s similar line is coloured by the rapidity of Danny Markovitch’s high-flying soprano. Lake Takengon adds flamboyant wordless vocals into the mix; the tropical atmospheres of Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky) combine the evocative tones of Indonesian flute with spoken phrases and delicious fuzz guitar; and the steady progression of Suniakala confirms the guitarist’s aptitude for orchestral, almost Pink Floydian grandeur.

Dear Yulman descends into dark, shady thriller territory, though Budjana’s impressively liquefied chromatics rise above; Pancarabo‘s Methenyesque vocals alternate with a driving synth groove redolent of Jan Hammer (and even Husband’s time with Level 42); and the exuberant, chiming celebration of Manhattan Temple glints to Tim Garland’s unmistakable vibrato and Levin’s beautifully resonant NS bass. At this stage of CD2, there’s a sense of envelopment, of basking in the aromatic wonder – and Dedariku‘s breathy suling flute finds a path through dense undergrowth to ascend melodically with synth and guitar (this is certainly theme tune material). The eastern joy of Ujung Galuh – one of many vast tracks – is carried by Danny Markovitch’s soprano improv; Uncle Jack‘s quirkiness is characterised by catchy guitar motifs, glissando bass and all manner of piano and synth hues; and the peaceful, closing acoustic guitar and strings oasis of title track Zentuary also has a symphonic urgency which suggests there remains plenty more for Budjana to say… next time.

A big statement from a strong Indonesian jazz-rock force, Zentuary is available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp and Amazon, as well as at iTunes.

 

Dewa Budjana guitars, soundscapes
Tony Levin electric upright NS Design bass, Chapman Stick
Gary Husband drums, keyboards, acoustic piano
Jack DeJohnette drums, acoustic piano
with guests
Danny Markovich curved soprano sax
Tim Garland tenor sax
Guthrie Govan guitar
Saat Syah custom-made Indonesian suling flute
Ubiet vocals
Risa Saraswati vocals
Czech Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michaela Růžičková

dewabudjana.com

Favoured Nations (in association with MoonJune Music) – FN2880 (2016)

‘Dreamland Mechanism’ – Beledo

Beledo

POWERING his way into the typically resolute MoonJune galaxy of contemporary jazz/rock recordings, US electric guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Beledo releases Dreamland Mechanism – an impressively energised and virtuosic solo debut.

Something of a late-teen guitar hero in his native Uruguay, as well as neighbouring Argentina, Beledo moved to New York at the beginning of the 1990s – and his professional career has continued to flourish there, working with a panoply of big-name artists including Jimmy Haslip, Jeff Berlin, Randy Brecker and Gilad Atzmon. Now, for this dynamic solo project, he calls on a clutch of his associates – chiefly electric bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Gary Husband, with contributions from Tony Steele, Doron Lev, Endang Ramdan, Cucu Kurnia, Dewa Budjana and Rudy Zulkarnaen.

Beledo’s experience of the changing face of jazz/rock fusion over the past few decades, and presumably an understanding of its ’60s/’70s roots, appear to be significant in the realisation of his compositions and these band performances – opener Mechanism, with Jerry Goodman-style violin flamboyance, summons the spirit of Mahavishnu; and reedy synth extemporisations alongside Lincoln Goine’s prominent, aqueous, electric bass in Marilyn’s Escapade easily echo the vibrancy of Zawinul and Pastorius. In an album of contrasts, such sunshiny, multi-coloured grooves are balanced with guitar rock-outs Bye Bye Blues and Big Brother Calling, their wailing synth/moog lines and soaring, echoic guitar solos perhaps recalling early ’80s Jeff Beck; and the strong, articulate drums and percussion of Gary Husband are particularly evident in these higher-octane outings, Mercury in Retrograde‘s guitar/bass/drum simplicity actually filling the room with effective, dramatic saturation.

Combining dual kendang and other percussion with Beledo’s acoustic guitar, Lucila produces an exotic, cross-cultural blend of Brazilian, Javanese and Flamenco influences – and tempered by richly lyrical electric guitar and fretless bass improvisations, this becomes a fascinatingly fluent, polyrhythmic journey. First impressions might indicate ‘an album style’, but closer investigations draw out the breadth of composition and instrumental colour across these fifty-six minutes, Silent Assessment rolling solidly to its deep bass undulations and attractive guitar riffs, as well as chiming, sweeping synths reminiscent of Dave Stewart (National Health, Bruford); and the perky, complex rhythms of Sudden Voyage are irresistible, Husband playing out of his skin(s).

Indonesian guitar star Dewa Budjana appears on sumptuous BuDJanaji – presumably a direct dedication, it’s characterised by Beledo’s shared, Lyle Mays-style vocal/guitar lines and his guest’s fine, Allan Holdsworth-like wide tremolo improvisations (both Budjana and Holdsworth are MoonJune artists). And Front Porch Pine is the perfect closer to this extravaganza – Beledo’s superb guitar electronics and speedy runs almost vying for dominance with Tony Steele’s mobile electric bass oscillations and Doron Lev’s relentless drums/percussion.

If you’re looking for good-time, well-produced, high-energy jazz/rock with especially piquant detail…… Dreamland Mechanism is available from the MoonJune Records website, as well as BandcampAmazon, etc.

 

Beledo
electric guitar
acoustic guitar (tracks 4, 8)
violin (track 1)
Fender Rhodes (track 1)
Mini Moog (track 2)
acoustic piano (track 3)
accordion (track 3)
fretless bass (track 4)
vocals (track 8)

Lincoln Goines electric bass (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Gary Husband drums (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Tony Steele electric bass (tracks 9, 10)
Doron Lev drums (tracks 9, 10), percussion (track 9)
Endang Ramdan lead kendang percussion (tracks 4, 8)
Cucu Kurnia kendang percussion (tracks 4, 8)
Dewa Budjana electric guitar (track 8)
Rudy Zulkarnaen electric bass (track 8)

beledo.com

MoonJune Records – MJR077 (2016)

‘celebrating The Dark Side Of The Moon’ – Nguyên Lê / Michael Gibbs / NDR Bigband

NguyenLe

FOR ANY DIE-HARD Pink Floyd fan (arm held aloft here), the sight of a reinterpretation – a what?! – of their seminal 1973 colossus Dark Side Of The Moon might be met with an equal measure of trepidation and intrigue. After all, those of us whose teenage years were coloured by the thrill of ‘prog’ are likely to have this particular Gilmour, Waters, Wright & Mason album in their DNA, even to the very detail of guitar and vocal solos.

It’s been done before, of course – Ari Hoenig, The Flaming Lips, dubstep, reggae, string quartet, a cappella – and the initial signs here are particularly good: a concept fostered by Siggi Loch, on his go-ahead ACT label, with the venerable approval of Nick Mason and featuring dynamic guitarist Nguyên Lê (who has recorded exclusively with ACT for some time now, including collaborations with Pete Erskine and Michael Bonita). The anticipation, excitement and validity of this seemingly-audacious venture is further raised by the personnel involved – the renowned NDR Bigband realising the orchestrations of respected British composer, arranger and band leader Michael Gibbs, joined by Youn Sun Nah (vocals), Gary Husband (drums) and Jürgen Attig (fretless bass).

For this jazz/rock ‘celebration’, Nguyên Lê arranges all nine (or ten) numbers from the original, as well as weaving-in five self- and co-written Floyd-inspired miniatures. The transitions are remarkably organic, and Gibbs’ big band orchestrations frequently breathtaking, but how well do these familiar tracks translate into this new guise?

Heralded by the electronic cross-conversations of Speak To Me and Lê’s similarly impressionistic Inspire, the big vocal of Breathe is presented soulfully by Youn Sun Nah against a wall of big band splendour. Following on, the panicky momentum of On The Run is expertly effected by Jürgen Attig’s bass and Christof Lauer’s swirling soprano until, waking to radio-controlled timepieces, Time is cleverly reimagined, announced by Gary Husband’s thunderous toms and powerful big band blasts. There’s a tendency for Gilmour’s originally-relaxed, oscillating semitone lines to somehow become mechanical, even monotonous, in this arrangement, and Youn Sun Nah’s later lyric entry appears an unnecessary add-on. But, otherwise, it rocks to Lê’s distinctively complex guitar improvisations and electronics.

Magic Spells and the charming marching band-like Hear This Whispering (both from the pen of the guitarist) precede a dazzling adaptation of The Great Gig In The Sky, Clare Torry’s classic, impassioned (and presumably improvised) ’70s vocal imitated incredibly accurately by the blistering big band. That transcription is so satisfying, and all too brief, though segued by Jürgen Attig’s luxuriant, Jacoesque fretless bass and Nguyên Lê’s impossibly rapid guitar runs in Gotta Go Sometime.

The timeless 7/4 ‘prog’ wonder of Roger Waters’ Money translates magnificently here into super-funky, clav-driven brilliance, Gary Husband’s heavy-yet-bejewelled drums and percussion ringing through it as a golden thread; and the incisive rhythmic urgency in the band, plus Lê’s liquescent, amplified lead, is mind-boggling – a triumph, in fact. Us And Them is ingeniously reshaped – a delicate oriental motif which extends into big band grandeur, Fiete Felsch offering a beautifully effortless alto solo; and, again, Lê prompts sympathetic improvisation – the trumpet of Claus Stötter – in his Purple Or Blue. Full-on groover Any Colour You Like leads to Youn Sun Nah’s psycho-interpreted Brain Damage, maintaining its bizarre combination of disturbance and affirmation, again rippling to Husband’s extraordinary drum prowess; and closing, there’s the heightened big band illumination of Waters’ anthemic Eclipse.

Having had this running through my veins for the past few weeks, its overriding success has really caught my attention – and, along with the ’41-year-old’ on the CD shelf, it has pleasingly become something of a repeat player!

Released on 3 November 2014, further details and audio samples can be found at ACT Music.

 

Nguyên Lê electric guitar, electronics
Youn Sun Nah vocals
Gary Husband drums
Jürgen Attig electric fretless bass

NDR BIGBAND conducted by Jörg Achim Keller:
Thorsten Benkenstein
trumpet
Benny Brown trumpet
Ingolf Burkhardt trumpet
Claus Stötter trumpet
Reiner Winterschladen trumpet
Fiete Felsch alto saxophone, flute
Peter Bolte alto saxophone, flute
Christof Lauer tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Lutz Büchner tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Sebastian Gille tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Marcus Bartelt baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Dan Gottshall trombone
Klaus Heidenreich trombone
Stefan Lottermann trombone
Ingo Lahme tuba, bass trombone
Vladyslav Sendecki piano and synths
Marcio Doctor percussion

Orchestrations by Michael Gibbs
All arrangements by Nguyên Lê, except tracks 4, 14 & 15 by Michael Gibbs
Special thanks to Nick Mason

ACT Music – ACT 9574-2 (2014)