‘Pasar Klewer’ – Dwiki Dharmawan (2CD)

dwikidharmawan

THE SCALE AND DYNAMISM of double album Pasar Klewer, from Indonesian pianist Dwiki Dharmawan, is pretty awe-inspiring. 

Reflecting the hustle and bustle of its South-East Asian marketplace title (and reinforced by a lively cover illustration), this ambitious, one-hundred-minute fusion of jazz, rock and world music has at its core a vibrant trio, with Dharmawan joined by the brilliance of bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer/percussionist Asaf Sirkis. But the beautiful eclecticism of contributions made by the pianist’s guest musicians – including clarinettist/saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and electric guitarist Mark Wingfield – elevates these eleven, expansive tracks into a cornucopia of often unexpected riches.

Described as a cultural icon in his homeland, performer, composer and arranger Dharmawan’s expertise in bringing together these various strands is impressive; and with a breathlessly flamboyant piano technique, he is clearly an inspirational leader. Title track Pasar Klewer brims with exotic colour, Mark Wingfield’s characteristic, high-velocity guitar the ideal partner for the busyness of Dharmawan, Stavi and Sirkis; yet it is also imbued with the magical sound-imagery of chants, bells and Aris Daryono’s three-stringed rebab. Glad Atzmon’s clarinet deftness (always with such a distinctly ‘vocal’ expression) soars in Spirit of Peace, a relentless, smouldering dance suffused with Nicolas Meier’s glissentar improvisations and Asaf Sirkis’ konakol voicings.

It’s an adventure of mystery and discovery, with the sense of pulling back the curtain to reveal the next chapter – so Atzmon’s superb soprano sax outpourings over vigorous gamelan orchestra and free-jazz piano trio are just a small part of the story of thirteen-minute Tjampuhan; melodically uplifting Frog Dance (with a field recording of the Balinese variety) is irresistible; and Asaf Sirkis’ own Life It Self enjoys a hard-driven prog groove perpetuated by the heavier aspect of his drumming and the stratospheric, pitch-bent guitar of Mark Wingfield.

Robert Wyatt’s Forest and the trio’s composition London in June include the theatrical vocals of Boris Savoldelli; and Dharmawan’s arrangement of traditional tune Lir Ilir is introduced by the decorative voice of Peni Candra Rini before it cranks up into full-throttle piano jazz embellished by glissentar. Amidst such intensity, moments of repose can be found in elegant Bubuyu Bulan and Purnama, whilst the expanded, instrumental version of Forest which closes the programme – featuring both Dharmawan and Wingfield, effectively enhanced by electronic shooting stars – possesses a transcendental magic.

Bask in its cosmopolitan outlook and astounding musicianship.

Further details and audio samples at MoonJune Records.

 

Dwiki Dharmawan acoustic piano
Yaron Stavi upright bass, electric bass
Asaf Sirkis drums, udu clay percussion, shaker, konakol singing
with
Mark Wingfield guitar
Nicolas Meier glissentar, acoustic guitar
Gilad Atzmon clarinet, soprano sax
Boris Savoldelli vocals
Ari Daryono vocals, gamelan percussion, kendang percussion, rebab
Peni Candra Rini vocals
Gamelan Jess Jegog led by I Nyoman Windha gamelan orchestra

dwikidharmawan.net

MoonJune Records – MJR081 (2016)

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‘Proof of Light’ – Mark Wingfield

Proof

IMAGINE the late ’70s progressive jazz/rock boom of Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin and AllanHoldsworth, and you might be somewhere on the right track to the music of Anglo-American electric guitarist Mark Wingfield. Yet here is a musician who has honed his own, specific approach to the instrument and, consequently, his original, heavy-duty compositions.

Recording for the first time with New York-based label MoonJune Records, Wingfield has partnered with two stalwarts of the current jazz/rock scene – bassist Yaron Stavi (David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Robert Wyatt) and drummer/percussionist Asaf Sirkis (Gilad Atzmon, Jeff Berlin, Tim Garland) – to forge an otherworldly vista of shifting, synthy textures and intense rock-outs. Mark Wingfield’s mercurial guitar technique, frequently at the highest extremity of the fretboard and coaxing extended pitch-bent effects from the tremolo arm, is what defines his signature sound, along with staggering rapidity of improvisation.

Foreboding opener Mars Saffron is instantly redolent of the brilliance of, say, Gary Moore, Jan Hammer or Simon Phillips, as Wingfield’s searing melodies soar over hard-driving electric bass and drums, only pausing briefly amidst synthesised washes. Shadowy Restless Mountains, jangling to metallicised strings, finds Sirkis revelling in its space… at his flamboyant, fire-cracking best; and The Way to Etretat becomes delightfully acoustic as Stavi’s upright bass extemporisations dance around Italian-suggested ambiences, with Wingfield’s later guitar re-entry elevating the whole atmosphere to cinematic soundtrack status (again, Sirkis is irresistibly explosive at the kit).

A mellower, Metheneyesque synth quality to Wingfield’s guitar is found in A Conversation We Had and A Thousand Faces, both offering Wingfield the freedom to elaborate with haunting lyricism. And energized, full-throttle Voltaic resounds to quickfire, rhythmic riffs and gritty, percussive, droned abstractness – echoing Keith Emerson’s roughhouse ELP extravagances, it’s quite a ride!

Summer Night’s Story is an engaging episode of fluctuating colours, Sirkis’ refracting cymbal show especially catching the ear. Koromo’s Tale seems to occupy a cathedral-like vastness, with oriental overtones, as Yaron Stavi’s double bass improvisations set up Wingfield’s own explorations; and title track Proof of Light closes the 54-minute sequence with Sirkis and Stavi supporting Mark Wingfield’s virtuosic, high-wire display before blazing white-hot at its conclusion.

A cursory listen to this album might call for greater variation or augmentation of the trio’s elemental sound – but once immersed in the detail, Proof of Light becomes an intoxicating journey of drama and outstanding technicality.

Further details and audio samples at MoonJune Records.

 

Mark Wingfield electric guitar
Yaron Stavi acoustic and electric bass
Asaf Sirkis drums

markwingfield.com

MoonJune Records (MJR071) – 2015

‘The Whistle Blower’ – Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble

Gilad

A CASCADE of unalloyed Middle Eastern exuberance announces this latest release from Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble. One of the hardest-working musicians on the London and UK jazz scene, multi-instrumentalist and composer Atzmon is one of those privileged beings whose instrument (here, chiefly sax) appears simply to be an extension of their own being, such is the fervid eloquence and quick-witted delivery of his performances.

Recorded again with OHE associates Frank Harrison (piano/keyboards), Yaron Stavi (basses) and Chris Higginbottom (drums), here is an album of Gilad’s original compositions which, characteristically, dances with ease between uproarious, Israeli-infused passion and utter, luxuriant romanticism. Easily the ‘Jeff Beck of the sax/clarinet’, there seems to be no capability of his reed instruments that he doesn’t understand or implement (as those who have seen his live creativity with mouthpiece and crook alone will testify!); and the rapidity of his trademark unbroken, chromatic runs up and down the keys – sometimes, with the dry timbre of a Medieval shawm – is as thrilling as ever.

So, that opening number, Gaza Mon Amour – with evocative percussion, rhythmic shouts and wails, it relentlessly surges to Atzmon’s hypnotic, swirling clarinet and sax extemporisations until he attains feverish screams; and following, the brooding mystery of Forever finds the leader in contrasting legato vein, coloured by Frank Harrison’s inquiring piano against the softness of cymbals and bass. The Romantic Church, harking back to the sentimentality of 2009’s In Loving Memory of America, is positively ambrosial – Atzmon at his most lyrical with wide vibrato, backed by Harrison’s lush strings and articulate, perspicuous piano.

Magnum opus Let Us Pray (at over eleven minutes) has an air of soundtrack, the drama escalating as Atzmon caterwauls almost in Doppler effect to the encouragement of Chris Higginbottom’s blazing drums and Yaron Stavi’s reliable bass propulsion, plus sweeping, piano improv and monolithic chords (stirring vivid memories of the electrifying atmospheres of OHE gigs). The homespun though subtly disquieting charm of The Song, expressed through the leader’s accordion, is sufficiently melodic as to proffer lyrics; and the edgy longing of To Be Free reverberates indeed to freer ensemble playing, Atzmon again reaching incredible heights.

For Moana – perhaps a love song – is spacially elegant, thanks to the delicate balance of piano, bass and drums – the perfect vehicle for Atmon’s sustained soprano meanderings. And ever the capricious, jesting showman, Gilad the guitarist and accordionist leads the closing title track – a cheeky, flouncy rumba – to wolf-whistle-prompting wordless vocal allurement from Tali Atzmon, accompanied by laddish, unison backing vocals.

Launching at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club on 12 March, the album is released on and available from Atzmon’s new publishing outlet Fanfare Publications (and presumably all good jazz retailers) on 23 February. Extensive tour dates listed below – a show not to be missed, proven by this live video from The Hideaway – Gaza Mon Amour.

And ‘The Whistle Blower’? – Gilad explains: “I am an avid admirer of simplicity and transparency. The moment of clarity that leaves the mind in the dark, yet content. I guess this is why I blow the whistle instead of playing the fiddle.”

 

Gilad Atzmon alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, accordion, guitar, vocals
Frank Harrison piano, keyboards, vocals
Yaron Stavi double bass, electric bass, vocals
Chris Higginbottom drums, vocals
with
Tali Atzmon vocals
Antonio Feola voice

2015 tour dates
23 February: Everyman Studio, Cheltenham
26 February: The Albany Club, Coventry
1 March: Hen & Chicken, Bristol
5 March: RNCM, Manchester [cancelled by RNCM]
6 March: Birmingham Jazz, Birmingham
11 March: Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
12 March: Pizza Express Jazz Club, London (album launch)
13 March: Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
14 March: Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
31 March: Brook Theatre, Chatham
1 April: Y Theatre, Leicester
4 April: 606 Club, London
5 April: Colchester Arts Centre, Colchester
7 April: A-Trane, Berlin
9 April: Saarwellingen, Germany
11 April: Drill Hall, Lincoln
16 April: Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking
17 April: Wakefield Jazz Club, Wakefield
25 April: (TBC) Freiburg
30 April: Spin Jazz Club, Oxford

gilad.co.uk

Fanfare Jazz – FJ1501 (2015)

‘Shepherd’s Stories’ – Asaf Sirkis Trio

Shepherd's_front

ISRAELI-BORN DRUMMER and percussionist Asaf Sirkis has firmly established himself as a highly individual and treasured mainstay of the buzzing British and international jazz scene. For many years the rhythmic backbone of Gilad Atzmon’s amazing Orient House Ensemble, also to be found within John Law’s and Alex Hutton’s piano trios with bassist Yuri Goloubev, and alongside Gwilym Simcock in Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio (to name but a few!), his precise, sensitive and versatile approach to jazz is both refreshing and unfailingly compelling.

For his own current trio project, his compositions and performances are fascinatingly redolent of the jazz-rock/’Canterbury’ period of the mid to late ’70s and early ’80s (I’m thinking maybe ‘National Health’, ‘Colosseum II’, ‘Bruford’… even ‘Camel’) – but the music is very much of the present, Sirkis’s many influences crystallising into this distinctive sound. Teaming up again with guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and bassist and fellow ‘Orient Householder’ Yaron Stavi (following on from their 2010 album, ‘Letting Go’), they present this new collection, ‘Shepherd’s Stories’. Sirkis explains the album title as the ‘déja vu’ effect we can experience when hearing a melody; familiar yet unable to place, but reminding us of times past and “where we have come from” – perhaps another suggestion of the richness and vision of Sirkis’s creativity.

As before, the extended tracks feature Spiliotopoulos who creates a clear, sustained lead guitar tone and technique often reminiscent of the great Allan Holdsworth. Considerable melodic interventions are also made by the accomplished Stavi on bass, leaving the guitar free to then create complex and varied backdrops of electric or acoustic chordal textures and washes.

Sirkis, himself, displays all of his customary panache throughout – yes, the leader and writer, but never dominating proceedings. He is one of those musicians who, in concert, completely captivates with his confidence, meticulousness and (very clearly) the enjoyment of all he is sharing with colleagues and audience alike. Here, ‘Meditation’ exemplifies his method, with bassist and guitarist combining to create a mysterious, anticipatory opening through which Sirkis gradually joins to reveal his mastery – subtle at first, then joyously abundant (check out the title track, too, for Asaf at glorious jazz/rock full tilt!).

For this release, three guests are welcomed into the fold, each of whom colour the trio’s sound in an interesting and different way. The Fender Rhodes of John Turville introduces an exciting new dynamic, with a deft display in the opening ‘1801’, and then later on in ‘Dream Sister’. In-demand flautist Gareth Lockrane also augments well the trio’s sound, presenting a beautifully restrained yet lithe improvisation in ‘Together’; and the charming, layered, wordless vocals of Sylwia Bialas on the gentle ‘Traveller’ further enhance the trio (for me, pleasingly reminiscent of the ‘new age’ vocals of Mike Oldfield’s early catalogue). These contributions certainly whet the appetite for, I hope, future collaborations.

I have been listening for a number of weeks now and have gradually become enchanted by this album’s feel-good ambience – another of those very welcome ‘slow burners’ that can be returned to again and again to reveal hidden delights. Already available at iTunes, ‘Shepherd’s Stories’ is launched at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, on 17 July, 2013, followed by a number of UK dates.

For information, news and discography: http://www.asafsirkis.co.uk/


Asaf Sirkis
 drums and percussion
Tassos Spiliotopoulos  guitar
Yaron Stavi  bass
with
John Turville  Fender Rhodes
Sylwia Bialas  voice
Gareth Lockrane  flute

 SBPT003 (2013)