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(100:33, Moonjune Records / Favored Nations)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dancing Tears 9:11 2. Solas PM 9:18 3. Lake Takengon 7:45 4. Suniakala 8:40 5. Dear Yulman 8:21 6. Crack in the Sky 7:36 7. Pancaroba 8:12 8. Manhattan Temple 10:00 9. Dedariku 10:45 10. Ujung Galuh 7:05 11. Uncle Jack 10:50 12. Zentuary 2:50 LINEUP: Dewa Budjana - guitars, soundscapes Tony Levin - bass, Chapman stick With: Gary Husband - drums, keyboards, piano Jack DeJohnette - drums, piano Danny Markovich - sax Tim Garland - sax Guthrie Govan - guitars Saat Syah - flute Ubiet - vocals Risa Saraswati - vocals Czech Symphony Orchestra
Prolusion. Indonesian composer and musician Dewa BUDJANA is a well known and regarded musician in his home land of Indonesia, and for the last decade or so he has been established as a prominent musician also in the west, helped and guided by his western label Moonjune Records. Following a handful of albums released and reissued on that label, he was signed to Steve Vai's label Favored Nations in 2016, for the release of "Zentuary", which is his most recent album to date.
Analysis. Just about anything connected with Moonjune Records has a jazz flavor to it, and Dewa Budjana is no exception. Jazzrock and jazz fusion are the realms in which he operates on this latest album, where the boundaries between those universes are blurred at best. Much due to the stellar musicians he has with him on this ambitious double album. With musicians such as Tony Levin and Gary Husband involved, those familiar with music in general and jazz in particular know that there won't be a lack of quality. And there is a lot to enjoy on this production, and right on top of that list is the impeccable musicianship throughout, arguably closely followed by the mix and production. Not that the quality of either tends to be off on the artists Moonjune Records are involved with, but in this case thay are possibly even greater. As this album plays out, the quality mark continues to be a presence. The songs are elegant too, occasionally with world music elements flavoring the proceedings, and in a breathtaking move the use of a symphony orchestra on Suniakala opens up a landscape that is almost a revelation. The ebb and flow of the songs, often alternating between gentler, careful passages and edgier, more expressive sections, really come to their right when backed by a symphonic orchestra. Otherwise most songs features one or more parts with a more expressive feel to them, and more often than not we are treated to a sequence or interlude highlighting a single instrument in a manner jazz fans in particular will recognize and applaud. Much the same can be said about the use of piano on many cuts. The album does tend to get to be a bit too smooth and predictable though. Not that anything is of a sub par quality, far from it, but personally I miss those details that will draw me in to the music in a more mesmerizing manner. Much of this album feels rather safe, a bit too elegant and too clever to really manage to elevate the final impression up to a higher level. Much depends on just how you listen to such an album of course, as well as your general taste in music. For me, this one comes across as a production with more of a finite reach, with limited impact beyond a certain key audience. But what a magnificent album this is for that audience.
Conclusion. Dewa Budjana and his various guests on this double album have made a mainly positive, uplifting and smooth production that exists somewhere on the borders between jazzrock and jazz fusion, in a smooth and polished contemporary manner. The material does feature some world music elements here and there, flavoring the soundscapes nicely, and there's room for controlled excursions into more expressive modes of delivery on regular occasions too, but without the material ever becoming too challenging for any longer period of time. The slight emphasis on jazz details gives me the impression that this is an album that will have a stronger appeal for jazz fans than for jazzrock fans, but both audience segments should track this one down and have a go at it on some occasion. I suspect that the greater majority of those who choose to do so will find the experience rewarding.
Progmessor: March 29th 2018
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