After a special edition to celebrate the holy month of Ramadhan in June, the Braga Jazz Night went back again working on its mission. That is, to focus on showcasing young musicians as a part of our effort in pushing up the regeneration process. Yes, that’s our core, something that we had in mind when we started creating our regular community event 4 years ago. We realize that there are so many talented kids who still got not enough playground to prove themselves. Therefore, we welcome them and hope they can grow much faster from our stage.
That idea turned right. There are many young musicians then found their grip after that. Some have gone to festivals, some have shared the stage with big cats, some have even gone international. We are happy to see this fact, and that motivates us to do more. On the other hand, we also welcome the successful ones both local and international to share the stage with these youngsters, so they can become an inspiration to learn from. Occasionally, we also support the artists when they just launched album, single or making any wave in their career. That’s been our formula since day one.
In this Braga Jazz Night #37, we give a special theme: “Young Guns”. Why? Because here we showcased all young talents. What’s unique is that all bands has a person’s name in it, whether as the band leader or the one we are highlighting. Some of them are still teens, while some are young adult. Speaking of flavors, they all have different taste and texture. In this episode we found swing, straightahead, bebop, fusion and bossa, even ethnic music was there. They all gave their best and made us proud.
Starting first was a duo consisting of student and teacher: Luqmanul Hakim & Sang Guru, Hardi Suryana. Luqmanul, we usually called him Umanbott has been with us since his age was still one digit. He used to help us in providing the photos for our coverage around 6-7 years ago, which made him as the youngest stage photographer for us. He is now in his mid-teens. This boy is restless, he doesn’t like to sit down without doing something. He went studying martial arts, active in organizations and so on. Until one day, he told his mom that he wanted to learn jazz guitar. Digging the music he’s been familiar with since a toddler would let him feel the vibe from different angle. If before he shot the stage with a camera, this time he face the audience from the stage. His mom, licensed photographer and event organizer Mia Damayanti Sjahir quickly put him under the guidance of fine jazz guitarist Hardi Suryana. According to his teacher, he learnt real fast. He has started performing since the late 2016 on Klab Jazz’s soil. We intended to invite him since then, but it wasn’t easy because he’s still busy with his formal study. Now that the school day has just started, we quickly took him in.
Not wanting to waste time, the student-teacher duo immidiately launched a jazz standard written by Errol Garner, “Misty” and then carried on with another standard from 1934, “Blue Moon” which has been covered by hundreds or maybe even thousands of musicians from Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra to the Supremes, Elvis Presley and even Rod Stewart in his jazz years. Like two builders, they both worked well in building each songs rock solid. If you got a partner and wish to dance, this duo could provide you the music in the most romantic way possible.
A cornerstone of post bop from Milt ‘Bags’ Jackson, “Bag’s Groove” was their third choice. Here Luqmanul demonstrated how good he could chew bop by having substantial assist from his teacher Hardi. The last song was his personal pick, “You Make Me Feel So Young.” He took this one since he loves Sinatra’s collection of songs. Originally this song was introduced in the movie ‘Three Little Girls in Blue’, around a decade before Sinatra recorded it. Many audience must have loved this act as they gained loud applause and cheers especially in the end.
He’s much improved since the last time we saw him play on October 2016 at Jazz et Alia. Now he can tackle bebop and has strengthened his swing. He could fully enjoy his moment now, letting the swingin’ notes flow smoothly with fun. His jazz statement is now clear. Having valuable assist from his teacher enabled him to demonstrate how much he has digged this genre.
We are happy and proud watching him. He was once a smart boy who loved to take picture from ‘weird’ angle, he helped us a lot back then in our coverages, now it’s our turn to take picture of him. Keep it up kiddo!
The second session showcased a young bassist Joe Bastian who introduced his brand new band, Joe Bass Project. He is no stranger since he has played here a couple of times, either as the bassist of Fine Taste, as a bossa duo with Billy Likumahuwa and most recently, just a couple of months ago with Lala & The Mates. He plays guitar and bass just as good, but his main gear is actually bass, both electric and acoustic. He learns from one of the best, Rudy Zulkarnaen, the bassist of simakDialog, 4 Peniti, Rudy and Band Listrik and Tesla Manaf, just to mention a few.
Just last month we heard that he was working on his own project where he could show his true-self, musically speaking. A band that, according to him, can answer his idealism and passion also a solid proof of his ability and existance as a musician. “I have to prove I’m able to do this. This is me, this is my yard.” he told us. He is looking for a chance to succeed in music. If that’s what he want, he needs to establish himself better, making himself heard. Therefore a project like this is very important for young musician like him.
For Joe Bass Project, he brings in some of his close friends such as Fadhilla ‘Lala’ KP (vocal), Dony Manurung (keyboard), Haider Castiela (drum) and two guitarists: M Rizqi Pratama and Swain Samuel. Joe told us that he draws inspiration from the modern fusion band Snarky Puppy, which actually led also by a bassist, Michael League. But what we found on stage was actually a crossover between fusion and nu soul which they worked really, really well.
Joe stood in front and did a bass lead in his own song made for his recital examination a few months ago. This jazz-rock fusion song has no titled just yet, but it has a strong structure where Joe shows he could lead in front. If he ever thought of making an album later, he should include this one. Rizqi, Swain, Haider and Dony stood tall with him.
Then Lala joined the boys. With Lala, they infused some nu soul moods in their music especially on the keys sound of Dony. Lala’s vocal vibe does suit this genre perfectly. Beginning with Ledisi’s “It’s Alright”, she carried on with “In My Eyes” which included the solo runs from the boys as she introduced each of them. Lala was in the X Factor and The Voice. She wasn’t lucky just yet, but it’s undeniable that she has a really good, mature quality of singing voice. They ended their show with Incognito’s “Still a Friend of Mine”. Again, it’s a perfect song choice for her and the band. Nice groove from Joe was best captured in this one.
Tasty, groovy fusion roared out from Joe Bass Project. It’s a tight collective unit led by a bassist who prefer to blend in with his fellows rather than showing himself off. Having said that, Joe managed to show his ability to lead the song and spread the love of groove with his bass. The rocking guitar of Rizqi, the nice rhythm from Swain, the solid drumming from Haider and Dony’s tasty soul jazz sound created a vigorous musical painting. It’s always great to see the young guns like them, they make us proud.
What’s important for this kind of project is to be able to capture the soul and spirit, heart and mind of the one who owns it. Joe Bastian and his band members has done it very well. We know Joe is a good player, we know he is passionate and serious. We also know that he has a great circle of friends who are always willing to support him. Well, for any band out there who happen to read this, if one day you are looking for a bassist, you can give Joe a try. With Joe Bass Project, he has proved that’s he is worthy to play among the higher league. The same also goes to his band mates.
In the third session we placed a young girl named Nayra Dharma. She’s still 17 year old and started seriously learning guitar a bit more than 2 years ago but already able to take difficult compositions under her wings. True, she inherits the DNA from her father, the maestro with a lot of inventions in the field of ethnic jazz, co-founder of supergroup Krakatau, Pra Budidharma. But if she can do it that fast, it’s because her passion and decision to go extra mile. While most of the girls her age hangout in the mall or anywhere else, she practices no less than 6 hours a day. We often found that she hurted her fingers for playing too much, yet it didn’t stop her to keep doing it. She doesn’t just play guitar, she sings too. She hatched fast and quickly gained experiences from playing with much older musicians including the legends. Quite remarkable girl isn’t she?
What’s even more amazing is that she also shows her hunger in exploring the musical terrain as wide as possible. We have featured her in the beginning of her career when she was still playing solo, then she established her own trio with drum and bass player. From there, she made a change in her group by replacing drummer with keyboardist. This formula worked very well as she gained more and more appearances.
But later on, she has been thinking of infusing some ethnic into her jazz canvas like how her father often does. Adding up a kendang player seems to be relevant in this case. She already has it in mind, but she is still looking for the best way in actualizing the idea.
In the mean time, she promised us something different. Changing the name from Nayra Dharma Trio to Nayra Dharma Group is one of the important change that will allow her to appear in bigger format. The current formation consists of Jason Limanjaya (keys) and the proud member of Salamander Big Band, Roy Bimantoro (contrabass), replacing Nicholas Dheo who has to focus on building his own bands. We had some ideas in mind, but when we finally saw it, they caught us off guard with their creative moves. Simply put, this new chapter stands off and probably will lead to the next one. But even if it’s not really corellated, this chapter is highly interesting .
As Nayra is preparing her debut album, they now have some original songs in their shelf. “Kasih Bersinar” was the first song, which directly took us into their playful, cheerful music style. Nayra was as charming as always. She could attracted people passing by to stop and watched her performance. Jason is of course, remarkable in having his fingers danced over the keys. This dude is always unpredictable. No one could guess his progression during the play, but it’s always tasty. As for the newest member Roy, his skill and experience makes him a very reliable companion, especially in a group with no drum like this. He safely guard the base, letting Nayra and Jason float freely on the surface.
Then they presented another original, written by Jason Limanjaya titled “Jive Life”. This song has a very comical, hillarious lyrics with ‘slapstick’ music where swing, ragtime and blues are packed inside loads of improvisations. “They actually wrote the song at (my) home.. it was funny to see how much they giggled during writing up the lyrics”, said Nayra’s mom to us. Well, we haven’t heard jazz song with ‘joking around’ lyrics and melody for quite a long time, so for us, this song shows a side of music (jazz) that’s probably getting more and more forgotten, and that is to let loose and just go out, have fun.
Nayra Dharma Group changed their tone after that to bossa, playing a song of Milton Nascimento and Márcio Borges that’s said to inspire Pat Metheny, “Vera Cruz”. Nayra played and sang this song comfortably as if she was a native from Milton’s origin. For us, this song proved that bossa is always one of her forte. Her clear, soft pure voice does fit in singing bossa, and her ability to play guitar makes it even better. This song was like a magnet dragging all eyes on her. Jason changed his gear to guitar for this song.
For the last song the group sang about unity which has becoming an issue lately in Indonesia. The song’s called “Semua Dalam Satu”, written by Pra Budidharma and Agus Basuki and rearranged by Jason. It’s an ellegant way to send a message through a song with lovely melody like this.
In this chapter we got to see the group’s ability to tell stories. All songs, from the serious theme to madly playful were narrative. Just three of players found inside for this time, but they all have character that are interesting to watch. Oh yeah, in this performance Nayra also shows her ability to scat-singing from normal to fast while still playing guitar flawlessly. Jason always gives such attractive and expressive appearance behind the keyboard, and Roy with his double bass may look calm, but he’s done a substantial work in providing the strong baselines.
According to them, next they are going to sail into the world where her father rules for around three decades, the mystical, magical Sundanese jazz. We know who the kendang player is, but they prefer not to mention the name first. We can’t wait for the next to come.
Although we have our own guess of how the ethnic jazz would sound, we know they will craft something new. The continuation of Nayravolution can never be predicted. This girl is eager to try anything. She loves challenges. That makes everything interesting about her. Plus, she has the genius mates with her. As long as she’s willing to present her chapter in this event, we will certainly welcome her with open arms. She is still sailing, let’s see where she lands next.
For the last session we featured a band we first saw at the Kampoeng Jazz 2017 just a few months ago: Albert Dragtan Quintet. This band is led by our friend, drummer Albert Shadrach Dragtan. Anyone who see him for the first time would think he’s a rockstar, which is not wrong because he was in a popular Oldschool Hardcore Punk band a decade ago, Komplete Kontrol. He found success in it, but for whatever reason, he turned around to jazz. He became friends with Ilham Septia Inda Nugraha since 2005 and locked in a jazz trio along with keyboardist Christ Stanley.
We met him around 7-8 years ago in the jazz scene and liked his unique style and power punch on jazz. This decision of him to switch to jazz proved to be right, because throughout his jazz period he has played among the greatest including Maurice Brown, Tony Monaco, Joe Rosenberg, Indra Lesmana, the late Riza Arshad, Aksan Sjuman, Professor Tjut Nyak Deviana Daudsyah, Indro Hardjodikoro just to mention a few.
Now he established a combo simply called Albert Dragtan Quintet. In this band he plays alongside his long time friend Ilham Septia Inda Nugraha (bass), Christian Jati (guitar, who he met in a jam session at Ray-Mate Community), Gafie Garcia (saxophone, met at the Atmosphere resto) and a female vocalist Vica Fithri Noer Azizah. About this girl, Albert specifically told us that he finds many things in common between them. That including their past, growing up in a Hardcore Punk and Rock environment. What’s also similiar is that Vica is willing to sing jazz standards and loves the challenge to sing the ones who are not normally sung by jazz singers. That’s what we saw on their stage at Kampoeng Jazz. A band clearly rooted in jazz with their own vibe. Several months have passed, finally we could bring them here on our ground.
The band started with a bossa song from the 60’s that’s rarely played in Indonesia, “Batida Diferente” written by Durval Ferreira. This is one of the songs that hooked us up in their Kampoeng Jazz performance. Vica did great in this song, but the quintet also got more than enough rooms to present the lovely melody with their instruments. The next song was an original reflective song by Albert, “Seperti Kata Ibuku”.
The next one was a medley of two Thelonious Monk’s gems: “I Mean You” (1946) and his favorite composition which he recorded often, “Blue Monk” (1954). Vica admited that this song really challenged her to the limit due the high difficulties nature both song have, but we could see she gave her best in finishing the song. For the musicians, as these are famous jazz (bebop) standards, they enjoyed every moment of it. Solid jazz drumming by Albert walked side by side with Ilham’s contrabass. These two old friends have worked together numerous times through the years, no wonder they got strong chemistry to each other. Christian Jati is a jazz-fluent guitarist who knows how to execute this song by using guitar. And Gafie enhanced the colors, making the sound much richer with his saxophone.
As one of the top news lately is about a boy who has special needs being bullied by three college students at one university in Jakarta, Vica asked the audience to stand up together against bullying. For the last presentation, Albert Dragtan Quintet played an ageless jazz standard from Walt Disney’s Snow White, “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Near the end, Vica came down from the stage and sealed her appearance by standing close to the audience.
Albert was a great hardcore punk back then. With his band Komplete Kontrol he actually reached huge success, but his eagerness to be a great drummer then brought him to encounter jazz, which now becomes his field. We have known him for many years. We know his passion and spirit. He is a fighter. Life isn’t easy for him, yet he keeps fighting hard that brings him to be who he is today. Now he has his own combo consisting of good players who share the same passion with him. And certainly, these four fellows know how to bring out Albert’s musical character alive.
Albert leads the band to enjoy the vast terrain of jazz and bring us too into it. His straight-forward style makes us easy to enjoy their music. Looking at their capability and Albert’s past which he shares with the vocalist, we have some ideas that may suit them, something that would excite them. And if they agree, that will be for the next appearance in this event. Albert Dragtan Quintet has taken a solid start. Their future is promising as long as they wish to keep exploring the wide world of jazz. These four dudes and a lady more than enough time to do so. By staying true to their own color and character, we have no doubt they will have an interesting journey. It feels great to have a new solid quintet in Bandung’s jazz scene.
So that’s how this 37th edition of Braga Jazz Night goes. As the theme “Young Guns” implies, in this edition we highlighted some of the musicians from today’s generation where some of them step much forward by being able to lead a band. We are really happy with the result. Variety of styles made this edition full of vibrant colors. What make us happier is that these are just some of the good and potential talents we can find in Indonesian jazz scene today. By looking at this fact, we don’t have to worry about the jazz future in our nation. We can rely on these young guns to continue what’s left by the great ones throughout generations.
Oh yeah, in this edition we got a special visit from a friend, a jazz guitarist from Batam city in Riau’s archipelago, Tchepy Wijaya Soekardy (he’s the one on the far left of the group photo above). We first met him at the 5th Asean Jazz Festival in his hometown 5 years ago. He is still highly active until now with his trio. We hope to be able to feature him in one of the next editions. Having a skillful musician from a far away city located in an island between Sumatra and Singapore, that would be really great! Thank you for coming Tchepy, look forward to have you again soon, not as an audience but a featured artist!
Next month we will be back with another special edition to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day which will come exactly on our schedule, the third Thursday of each month. To celebrate it, we are going to bring the next batch of young guns, but this time there will be two bands from Jakarta, one is the winner of Jazz Goes to Campus 2016. And there will be an ethnic jazz band from Bandung that uses violin as one of their weapons. We will keep you updated. Thank you for always supporting us, see you again in August.
Watch the highlight of Braga Jazz Night #37
See more pictures:
PS: Special thanks to Gita Bawana, Zahar Mustilaq for the drum, and especially Ditra Prasista who saved this event by lending his keyboard at the critical moment