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(46:28, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Arafura 7:09 2. Bromo 5:33 3. So Far So Close 4:31 4. Whale Dance 5:25 5. The Dark of the Light 3:46 6. Jembrana's Fantasy 9:28 7. NYC 2050 5:00 8. The Return of Lamafa 5:36 LINEUP: Dwiki Dharmawan – keyboards; vocals Jimmy Haslip – bass Chad Wackerman – drums I Nyoman Windha - Gamelan jegog, Balinese kendang, suling; vocals With: Jerry Goodman (ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra) – violin Dewa Budjana – guitars Tohpati – guitars
Prolusion. Indonesian composer and musician Dwiki DHARMAWAN has a career spanning multiple decades in his native country, as a member of the band Krakatau, as a central part in the World Peace Orchestra, as well as a solo recording and performing artist. Released in 2015, "So Far So Close" is the first of his solo productions to be widely available in the western hemispheres. Besides Dewa Budjana and Tohpati, both of whom are the bright rising stars of the genre, it features three really famous jazz-rock musicians – violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Chad Wackerman.
Analysis. Moonjune Records is a label with a reputation for finding quality artists most of us have never heard about that explore progressive rock, with something of an emphasis on artists that are active in the more jazz-oriented segments of this type of music. The label has released its fair share of high-quality material by Indonesian artists in particular that falls within this context, and Dharmawan is a solid addition to that list. Open, inviting and elegant jazz rock is the dominant trait of this production. Carefully layered keyboard arrangements are something of a defining trait for the recording, with electric piano and vintage-like keyboard and synthesizer layers, combining in elegant arrangements as key features throughout, and also with room for some nice vintage-era organ details here and there. More often than not in tight interplay with the guitar both as a supportive instrument as well as an alternating solo instrument, but also with liberal amount of room and space for Haslip's bass guitar to establish a more prominent and dominant presence from time to time. The sophisticated rhythm support of drummer Wackerman fits superbly into this context, a high-quality, but mostly unobtrusive, element elevating the end result in a subtle and efficient manner, and he also gets to showcase his skills in a more up front manner on a couple of occasions. Those fond of vintage-era jazz rock will have a lot to enjoy on this album, although I did find the opening three compositions to be the most impressive ones here, with Goodman's violin obviously adding a lot to opening track Arafura, his sharper violin tones creating an alluring contrast to the otherwise smoother and less sharp instrumentation. The darker tones, that are used on second track Bromo, add a nerve to this creation that isn't replicated elsewhere, and the use of subtly exotic rhythm and percussion elements on the title track is another instance of an element specific to a single composition that also elevates the end result into something rather more intriguing. One of the tracks will be somewhat divisive, however: The just over 9 minute long Jembrana's Fantasy is a much more expressive and chaotic affair, slightly abrasive at that, and comes across as more of a purebred loose improvisation with a stronger orientation towards the free-form aspects of jazz and jazz rock. One of those album pieces that will have much more of a love or hate dimension to it, but in terms of general style, this is also the sole exception on an otherwise jubilant and pleasantly inviting jazz rock album.
Conclusion. Those fond of quality musicians having a go without resorting to more flamboyant tendencies, who also enjoy an album that is an almost purebred excursion into the realm of vintage jazz rock, should have a field day with this western hemispheres debut of Dwiki Dharmawan. One single exception aside, this is an uplifting, elegant and subtly sophisticated take on that style, one of those albums that will have an appeal also beyond the regular jazz rock audience; a high-quality production through and through, and one easy to recommend others to lend an ear to.
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