We have launched the first edition of Braga Jazz Night in year 2018, or number #43 if you count from the first one. This edition also marks the 4th year of our service by collaborating with the venue, Braga CityWalk.
Since the beginning we set our goal to support the regeneration of jazz musicians by giving them chance and place to perform, also to them heard at least by our readers. So far it’s been fruitful as we have seen young musicians having success in their career after starting from this event. There are senior and experienced ones too often found among the lineup, and their appearances are crucial in order to help the young ones learning by watching. What surprises us is that the successful musicians who have placed their signatures on this event are not just from Indonesia but also from other countries like Australia, Malaysia, Italy, Mexico, Cambodia, USA and France. And, eventhough the event is based in Bandung, we have featured bands and musicians from other cities, like Jakarta, Sukabumi and even a city far away from our location, Batam. With all the limitations, we are feel blessed that we could strecth our mission much further than we ever imagined.
For Braga Jazz Night #43 we welcomed a new band that takes jazz into the edgier side where rock and blues live on, getting an update of a young bassist who is still crawling to establish himself, and a very special reunion between two musicians who recently join forces again after 14 straight years. This reunion involves piano and violin, two instruments that’s probably found often in classical scene. But as you can see, the combination works perfectly well in creating the ellegance of pure jazz.
The debut gig of a new band was first. The band’s called RED ZONE. This band was uniquely formed under weird coincidence, so weird that you would probably laugh if it happened in the movie. Let us describe how weird it is. In one fine morning, two boys were playing guitar at the campus ground of Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia. More and more boys joined in, and before they realized, they locked up in the fun of jamming which went for hours until the late afternoon, and it was enough for them to make an 8-piece band! Mind you that they didn’t even know each other, but they did feel strong chemistry to one another.
For Braga Jazz Night #43, Red Zone appeared as a quartet with rockin’ bluesman Eki Johan (guitar/vocal), Amir Fiqih (drum), Alfi Ibrahim (guitar/vocal) and Moch.Diva Sundara (bass). The fact that each of them came from different background creates a multi-colored sounds of music.
Featuring a female singer Ima Nirmala, they began with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” and showed that funk can go perfectly match with classic rock playing style. From there they knocked us even more with The Beatles’ “Come Together” with even higher rock intensity. Two guitarists Eki and Alfi traded punches in front, which stands as interesting about this band since they have different style.
All was good, but just as we thought they would keep it that way, they gave a cool surprise. They played Dave Brubeck’s gem “Take Five” in a totally different way! How often do we hear this song dipped totally in blues and rock, complete with the sound of guitar distortion? The frontman Eki Johan roared wild and free, often in tranced state as if he was possessed with blues demon. We have never heard “Take Five” being played this way. They turned the event into a rockin’ blues bar and had a lot of fun with this song for more than 10 minutes. It was a really pleasant surprise for us, and we say it was a really smart move executed well.
In our interview with veteran blues guitarist Scott Henderson some years ago, he told us this: “…it’s all about jammin’ and creating new stuff all the time, and this is the essence of jazz. So just because you play rock doesn’t mean that you can’t have the mentality of a jazz musician.” (Read the full length interview here: http://jazzuality.com/interview/exclusive-interview-with-scott-henderson/). And yes, we think it’s important to show that jazz breaks boundaries and can be applied in just about any genre and style. While we serve pure jazz in our event, we also have to show this other side of jazz, which we like to describe as ‘jazz by spirit’.
Red Zone is an example of it. They stay true to themselves, who they are, but plays something that still deeply relevant to jazz. They jam, have fun, create new stuff while still being honest to their own nature, and brilliantly uses a jazz standard as their canvas to paint blues, rock with some funk textures. As we said before, that’s a smart move. They put enough space to run solo, as free as a bird and enjoy their moment. Even when they had to play without cymbals and hi-hat, which many believe are vital to blues and rock.
Another thing we could learn from them is that there are many ways for a band to born, even from the unlikely moments that we might never thought possible. We are just happy that the band had their debut with us, and we wish them the best. May they keep bringing those who watch them to a ‘red zone’ area of music, the edgy area where the spirit of jazz generates the rebelious rock and blues.
The second act featured the young bassist who is still crawling to establish his existance in the industry. His name is Joe Bastian. He is no stranger to us since he’s been participating many times with various groups, from a bossa duo with Billy Likumahuwa, supporting her friend Fadhilla ‘Lala’ K Pramastij to the first time we met him in Find Taste. But that’s not all, because since last year we encouraged him to work on his own project so he would find and shape his character faster.
At first, he named it Joe Bass Project and had the debut right here last July. At that time he demonstrated his music color which lies on jazz rock fusion and slices of soul. 6 months has passed, he told us that he is still regularly practicing and working on his first single which he decided to be made in pop, hoping that it would be accepted by larger segment of music lovers. As we heard that there’s been movement, we invited him again.
Now he made the name shorter, dropping the word ‘Bass’ to be just JOE PROJECT. For this second act he took his original drummer Kevin Bernard along with two new players for this event: Abdul Aziz (keyboard) and Rendi Dwiyanto (guitar).
Just like the first band, they had to play without cymbals and hi-hat because they failed to find them up until the last moment. But that didn’t stop them to give their best in producing a beautiful music. They started light with a relaxing joy-trip song written by Agung Munthe “Afternoon Stroll”. Abdul Aziz did very well in this song with his ‘third stream’ piano playing.
After that, Joe demonstrated his skill by pinning the song of famous bassist of this generation, Barry Likumahuwa titled “Walking With the Bass”. Rendi Dwiyanto, who is originally a rock guitarist surprisingly fit the role of playing funky fusion with Joe. As for the drummer, Kevin Bernard showed that he didn’t need complete drum to play well.
For the last song, Joe invited her friend, Irza Rena to join the band on stage and sing Glenn Fredly’s hit from 3 years ago, “Tega”. Irza has a soulful vocal style with smooth but thick vibra. In her voice, this song sounded really nice.
As a musician, Joe has both skill and passion. He is serious in proving to everyone that he can, and will succeed in pursuing his career as a musician. Having qualified ring of friends is his other advantage, which we think he should utilize as much as possible. For tonight he proved that eventhough not all his core team could play, he still got replacements with skills just as good. We certainly think he can. All he needs is time and chance, and we hope we can provide a bit of both for him. We can never get enough of good bassists afterall, and Joe is one of them.
Exactly last year, on the January edition (that’s number #31) we showcased an unforgettable reunion between Michelle Efferin, the founder of fruitful music school M.E Music Centre and her former college friend resides in Sydney, Australia, Jessica Kung. If you don’t remember, allow us to refresh your memory with this link: https://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/braga-jazz-night-night-at-old-shanghai-the-report/. What a coincidence that in January 2018 Michelle was back again with another reunion. This time the reunion is with a violinist whom she takes as a perfect partner in crime. This story brings back the memory all the way to 15 years ago, the time when they played intensively together which lasted for a year or so. The violinist is a virtuoso that we always mention as ‘Jazz Paganini’ ever since we began our service. A flamboyant, charismatic and talented man: Ammy Kurniawan. As we want to highlight everything about their friendship, chemistry, memory and of course the joy of regrouping, we give this project a special name : MICHELLE – AMMY REUNION.
As we mentioned, their history began in 2003. They quickly found chemistry, locked as playing partners and landed on many spots. It was all good, but all of a sudden Ammy lost her because she had to pursue her formal education to Sydney, Australia. When Michelle’s done with her study and returned home, they were both busy with their own career. As Michelle established her music school and fulfilled her calling to teach mostly kids by holding an international standard curriculum, Ammy existed as an active musician, flying wide over the jazz, blues and everything in between. They did share the stage once in a while, like in Michelle’s wedding party for example, but not as much as it was back then.
Last year Michelle told us that she actually wished to reunite with Ammy, having the fun and pleasure of playing together again just like they did back then. In December it finally came true. She sounded really exicted when she told us about it which took place at M.E Music School’s event Christmas Jazz Night. For around half an hour they let us feel the magic of two great friends having a happy reunion. It was full with fun and laughter, they were both all out in exploring the jazz territories with selected songs which mean a lot to them.
The question is: how much is half an hour comparing to 15 years? It couldn’t be enough, we thought. We expressed it to them, and Ammy said: “Yes, I’m not satisfied just yet! Let’s do some more!” Hearing that, we quickly offered them to take part in this edition, and they directly took it excitedly.
Just like in the first reunion, Michelle and Ammy were accompanied with two more players: Michelle’s husband Richard Sirait on drums and Iwan on bass. Right after they took each of their position on stage, they played an original song, the last one found in Ammy Kurniawan’s new album titled “Encore”. Eventhough this is not the recording band, this pack did great in playing it. As usual, Ammy with all the smile and charisma quickly caught everyone’s attention, and the chemistry between him and Michelle was clearly felt since the first note.
For the second song they took a classic Brazilian choro song from early 1900’s,”Tico Tico” (“Tico Tico No Fuba”, a song about the beautiful orange/reddish-brown collared bird). This song is perfect for Ammy’s playful character and certainly perfect for being the showcase of magic finger due to the fast-paced nature and rhytmically lively melody.
All of a sudden the stage became a fun playground for them. It was like watching bunch of kids playing merrily in a park on a sunny afternoon. The song is brought artistic and majestic, but full of action. Ammy went teasing Michelle, trading some punches with her in raising intensity before approaching Iwan and had some fun together. Michelle was totally on fire, in a state we have never seen before. If usually we saw her calm and content, this time it’s a totally different Michelle. Expressive, tranced and burning. It was even difficult for us to see her fingers, dancing, streaming and dancing above the keys. Not only Michelle, Ammy also demonstrated how fast his fingers could work the violin. Amazingly, all notes were hit flawlessly. Richard and Iwan gave a solid layer to the song with their steady rhythm. We don’t get to hear this song being played too often anymore, so it was really great to have it back again through the hands of these jazz magicians.
After the vivace tempo tune, they slowed down with a classic from George and Ira Gershwin written in 1924, “Oh, Lady Be Good!”. Eventhough the song is smooth and sweet, they could still make it fun to see. The intensity might be less, but the conversation between two friends in front were still intense. Michelle’s beautiful original composition, “Thursday, 2 pm” became the last drop. This uplifting song served in mid-tempo felt relaxing with positive vibes, a really nice tune that you would love to hear whenever you need to refresh your mood. We do hope somday this song will go to recording so we can listen to it over and over again.
This session is 15 years in the making. The content was full of memory, love between two great friends who clearly still has a very strong chemistry after all these years. The magical conversation built through the combination of piano and violin in jazz, created by stellar musicians like Michelle ad Ammy along with the substantial support by Richard and Iwan was simply beautiful. Not only it’s beautiful, it was also fun to watch, very entertaining. What we hope is that after this reunion they will keep on playing together.
Musicians can build chemistry by practicing and playing together often, also by spending time together off stage. True. But such chemistry that Michelle and Ammy has is special and hard to find. Look, they hadn’t been playing together for years, yet they immidiately locked in harmony right when they’re back as one. No chemistry loss, it just even gets stronger. A very special chemistry they share does make a difference, giving us the chance to see more than just skill, technique and even talent. If possible, we hope we won’t have to wait for another 15 years to have more of the endless conversation between them by using jazz as the language. Thank you for letting us having a great start folks! Cheers to you all!
In this fourth years of service, the Braga Jazz Night #43 has made a good start, thanks to all performers, Gita Bawana and Tiga Negeri who generously supported the instruments and to everyone who came. We can never do it without you guys. May we can keep having your support in our mission to push the regeneration of jazz musicians from Bandung and to keep introducing the rich color of jazz to the society. Especially in the difficult times like where we are now and whatever comes next, we always believe music can bring peace, become a symbol of unity and even a chicken soup for our soul. We will be back again in February with another batch. Thank you once again, see you again then.
Watch the highlights from Braga Jazz Night #43
See more pictures:
Reporter and Photographer: Riandy Kurniawan
Video Editor: Vierna Mariska