What do we think of when we hear the name of Bubi Chen? There could be uncountable things appear in our mind, and it’s different from person to person. But one thing for sure, Bubi Chen is a legendary maestro who painted multi vibrant colors in Indonesia’s Jazz History (also the world’s) for many, many years during his life time. He might be gone but will never, ever forgotten. His name, works and contributions will always be remembered and will keep on inspiring the next generations ahead. The spirit of Bubi Chen’s virtuous work will remain alive on stage, most especially in concerts which pay big respect to him.
An Homage to Bubi Chen was one of those. But know this: the event was actually more than just a simple tribute to Bubi Chen. This event was made as a special appreciation and respect to him. It was presented in Surabaya – which happens to be the city where he was born – continued the success of tribute to Bubi Chen in Semarang not long ago. Semarang, the capital city of Central Java province which lies on the north coast of Java was the place he lived until the day he passed away on February 16, 2012.
This event was launched on last Friday, April 26, 2013 featured the world class young jazz drummer Sandy Winarta and his Quartet ( with guitarist Johanes Radianto, bassist Doni Sundjoyo and pianist Fanny Kuncoro) plus Monita Tahalea and some local talents, including one of Bubi’s last students Bagus Adimas and his Trio.
Since some of you might ask why Sandy Winarta was selected to carry the honor, the reason is because Sandy and his friends were the musicians who accompanied Bubi Chen for the last couple of years until his day on earth was over. The fact that Sandy Winarta Quartet is recently doing the recording process of unreleased Bubi Chen’s compositions in a whole new arrangements made Sandy Winarta and his compatriotes became a perfect choice to uphold the mission. An Homage to Bubi Chen was also recorded live in DVD format, this shows a solid proof on the efforts of documenting Bubi Chen’s pieces, which actually was one of the main mission of this event. What’s also special is that other than the show was sponsored by Djarum Super Mild, it’s also supported by Radio Suara Surabaya (SS). This radio is connected deeply to him especially with his involvement in Jazz Traffic program since 1985.
Bagus Adimas Trio (with Kevin Pieter-bass and Kelvin Andreas-drums) became a cool opening and directly heated up the venue, The Square Ballroom on Basuki Rahmat street in Surabaya with “Here’s That Rainy Day”. As a bright student of Bubi, Bagus has great skill in playing the piano which somehow resembles the quality of his mentor. As a symbol of emotional ties with Bubi, Bagus gave out an awe-inspiring performance together with jazz vocalists of Surabaya. The young female vocalist Gilly sang “That’s All” and “Fly Me To The Moon”. Thya Anhar who was active as a singer of Bubi Chen’s Virtuoso Group for 8 years sang Jobim’s gem “One Note Samba” and “My One and Only Love”. Then Benny Kartono who’s considered like Bubi’s own son by his relatives sang Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues”. The masterpiece of Cole Porter from 1929 “What is this Thing Called Love?” became the last presentation of Bagus Adimas Trio.
While the development of jazz in Indonesia has been growing significantly in the last several years, the number of quartet who play the spirit of nu-bebop aren’t that many. Hence, Sandy Winarta Quartet is very, rarely special. The team of Sandy Winarta, Doni Sundjoyo, Johanes Radianto and Fanny Kuncoro opened up with Bubi’s composition titled “Shang and Darin” followed by Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo and a piece from highly rated American jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown,”Sandu”.
If that was already high, the performance got even merrier with the special appearance of Indonesia’s most recent star, the beautiful jazz songstress, Monita Tahalea. Before singing, Monita expressed how much she missed the collaborative moment with Bubi Chen. Even so, she admitted that the jazz spirit from Bubi Chen has inspired her to give her all in this particular genre. The soft, lushy voice of Monita mesmerized the audience as she carried on from “Waltz for Debby”, “Tenderly” and of course one of her winning song “God Bless the Child”. As much as we all loved her session, she had to end it with a very beautiful rendition of “Autumn Leaves.”
It wasn’t over just yet, because then Sandy Winarta Quartet brought another guest star, Wilson Quah, a friend of Bubi Chen from Penang, Malaysia. He replaced Fanny Kuncoro on acoustic piano then rolled “Blue in Green” and his own song to seal up his part. Wilson’s appearance shows that Bubi wasn’t only inspire the musicians from his own nation but also the international players. Speaking of Penang, Sandy Winarta Quartet is already scheduled to play on December 5, 2013 at the Penang Jazz Festival, again tributing Bubi Chen. To seal the whole show in grand, Sandy Winarta Quartet delivered “Frogwalk”, another Bubi Chen’s original composition in a brand new arrangement.
Sandy Winarta Quartet, Monita Tahalea, Bagus Adimas Trio and the whole featured artists did a tremendous work in sending the highest respect to the late legend. They all performed beautifully, so beautiful until we could even feel Bubi’s present in the venue. For you who didn’t see the show, let us say that the atmosphere created by the combination of crowds and artists made goosebumps. It was bone-chilling, heartfelt and full of memory.
The concert was done in grand. It’s over but certainly this wouldn’t be the last. Kudos to everyone who participated in this event, including Bubi Chen’s son Howie Chen who was involved in it. Bubi Chen passed away in the age of 74, he’s not here among us anymore, but his legacy will continue on. He will always inspire us and more generations to come. Let us carry his legacy and pass it to others. As one of the first men who brought good news about Indonesia to the international scene through jazz, as a man who showed that- despite all the turmoils took place in the 60’s- Indonesia was already modern and able to do jazz as good as the artists from US and Europe, as a man who has painted up the jazz history with multi-bursting lively colors, we send our highest respect to him. Rest in peace, dearest Uncle Bubi Chen, you will remain forever in our heart.
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