The Java Jazz Festival 2015 has reached the 11th year. As usual, this largest annual jazz meeting in the world runs for full three days, presenting more than 50 acts per day (that’s hundreds of artists), spread over almost 20 stages for straight 8-9 hours. For this year there are many new names and interesting new projects, special tributes and so on. From legends, big names, today’s headliners to promising newcomers, all shaped each edition to stand strong both for jazz lovers and music fans in general.
Several stages started early in the first day. Farrah Di ; once a cute little girl but now 18 years old ; played with Jei Angklung in collaboration with Sol Project BPJS. Three more shows running almost at the same time were trumpeter Etienne Charles who represented Trinidad music vibe in jazz, UPH Conservatory Orchestra and the band from Yogjakarta consists of brave young lions, Rekoneko. Just like Farrah Di, Rekoneko got young players when the band was born in 2009. Ido (piano), Andreas (bass), Luke (guitar) and Mahesa (drums) is still the core of this band. The beauty of fusion shone from them, with some ethnic spices here and there.
First performance at Semeru was so much as expected. Labeled “Straight Ahead Venue”, the artist brought strong jazz bebop, uptempo swing with aggressive solo for real jazz aficionados at this festival. Straight way ahead! Her name is Akiko. Imagine that fused with Joey DeFransesco and Jimmy Smith, then voila! We have Akiko. Teamed up with a guitar, drums, and a trumpet, the band was full of energy and attractive. Not only that, Akiko included gimmicks such as playing “Circus Charlie” in her solo and also included a little bit of “Whiter Shade of Pale”. One of the song they played was called “Johnny Comes Marching Home”.
During a little speech in between her songs, she said that this year is her 50th year in music career, right after that speech she played a beautifully organ-ized cover of “How Deep Is Your Love”, which got the audience to sing along. Great vibe! The show was satisfying. Semeru is definitely THE place for straight-ahead jazz, thanks to its excellent acoustic settings.
The harmonica and vibraphone virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens made his comeback to this festival. Just like in 2011, his passion in blending jazz with Brazilian music (bossa, samba, chorinho and many more) is captivating especially with his quartet, the Hendrik Meurkens Samba Jazz Quartet. Meurkens doesn’t bring just Brazilian music flat; instead he infuses lots of bop. What a way to enjoy Brazilian music-bop style.
Some more shows ran on different stages. Four On A Swing, a band started by pianist Pradyumna Manot with William Walters (bass), Aniruddh Saha (drums) and French Emmanuel Simon (percussion) featuring New Yorker Megan Powers on vocal lightened up the B2 stage. At the same time, Andre Dinuth, the name behind Glenn Fredly, Afgan, Rossa, Sandy Sondoro, Once and one of the Six Strings (with Dewa Bujana, Tohpati, Aria Baron, Baim and Eross Candra) who recently appeared in front by releasing his solo album heated up the other spot. From fusion to progressive to rock, it’s about time for him to make his own story. Meanwhile, the Institute Music Indonesia (IMI) Soca Project gave a tribute to a legend who passed away not long ago, Rinto Harahap. Beautiful arrangement was heard through several hits by him, such as “Ayah” and “Benci tapi Rindu”.
Krisdayanti, Ruth Sahanaya and Titi DJ as 3 Diva took place on D2 Main Stage. It was first time ever for these divas joined the festive Java Jazz and surely they colored the stage with numerous hits they sang. The man representing British jazz scene without neglecting his Afro-Caribbean roots, Courtney Pine shocked the audience with his shocking free jazz and the new saxophone sensation Ricad Hutapea gave a smooth contemporary jazz delight on the other side of the stage. In addition, his fine works on the debut album “Jalan Pertama” surely loved by the visitors. Mary Stallings gave a warm, intimate show on the 6th floor while Aditya Elman served the Delta stage with several jazz standard.
As Pie Grande, Benjamin Herman Quartet and Angel Pieters, a beautiful youngster whose talents once awed David Foster, ran in their stage respectively, the group of giants rested their case on the big hall. One of the world’s best guitarist/composer Wayne Krantz with his mates: stellar musicians Anthony Jackson and Cliff Almond. Cutting edge, adventurous and action packed show presented by these giants. What a show, we’re lucky to see it.
Michael Lington is a superb saxophonist. No one denies that. But when he released “Soul Appeal”, suddenly we see another side of him that brings the classic soulful vibes to life, unlike others has done it. He doesn’t need to make difficult runs in complexity, extreme maneuvers; instead he just let his feeling out, transferring it into stream of melodies naturally. No need to think, just feel and enjoy what you feel. He can smoothly seductive, he can go wild, and either way Lington’s show was entertaining and should be able to meet the needs of audience.
Potret at Java Jazz Festival? But Potret is not a jazz group. Well, yeah, but listen to this. They’re just back again in 2015 with new single, plus the addition of two new players who are actually deeply connected to jazz: Nikita Dompas and Mery Kasiman. And then, Aksan Sjuman and Anto Hoed were inside too. So Melly Goeslaw should have a new ground, which should not be a problem for such talent like her. They played their famous all time hits, also featuring Yuni Shara.
Things got heated up at the prime hours. Swing legend Oele Pattiselano demonstrated the most beautiful side of swing under quartet formation. His show featured the daughter of bassist Jeffrey Tahalele, Crystal Tahalele. Swing and samba were delightful from them. Then Agam Hamzah, Adi Darmawan and Gusti Hendy of Ligro Trio served thrilling high-octane action like riding a dare-devil roller coaster ride. At the B2 stage, Gilang Ramadhan presented his newest project, the Komodo Project with Ivan Nestor as guitarist and vocalist, Donny Suhendra, and Adi Darmawan as bassist. Just like the name, Gilang showed how good he is in capturing the beautiful scenery of Komodo Island in every beat. As how he does in Nera, this time he delivers unique drumming with fellow musicians including Ivan Nestorman, Pra Budidharma and so on.
A genius play by Biel Ballester Trio (with Graci Pedro and Leo Hipaucha) from Argentina gave us a slight sensation as if we were watching Django Reinhardt in modern world. The jazz manouche/gypsy jazz from the trio was sensational. After playing in several events including the Jazz Goes to Campus, Chika At Last Project finally landed at this prestigious festival for the very first time.
Not only Meurkens, this year Harmonica in jazz is also represented by Gregoire Maret. He has played with big names from Pat Metheny, George Benson, David Sanborn to Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller just to mention a few. He performed as Gregoire Maret Quartet, featuring A list musicians including pianist John Beasley, bassist James Genus and veteran drummer Jef ‘Tain’ Watts. Marvelous!
A gang of big names took place at D2 Main stage. It was Yamaha Music Project which featured Glenn Fredly, Bams, Marcell, Sandhy Sondoro and Is from Payung Teduh, Bonar Abraham, Yoes KSP, Jonas Wang, Sadrach Lukas, Hentriessa, Denny Chasmala, and Jubing K. Together they prepared special show in Tribute to Michael Jackson and these awesome fellas sang many hits by the king of pop. A different story but also crowded happened at the other side. We still remember the crowds at Snarky Puppy‘s show at last year’s Java Jazz Festival Day one. At that time their session started really late, close to midnight, but this 2014 Grammy Award winner attracted so many people to come watching their show. In their second appearance again they got massive crowds. But that’s not all, because the view on their stage was also glorious with handful of instruments such as guitars, percussion, the keyboard, woodwinds, and brass played by many happy players. As promised they dropped quite different bombs that once again blew the audience’s mind totally. Cool, Snarky Puppy, hoping you to make a hat-trick next year.
There was an interesting show at the Semeru Hall. Interesting, not only because it featured amazing players from two countries: Poland and Indonesia, but it’s also because it carried an important agenda. It was Dominik Bukowski Group, commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Polish-Indonesian Relation. The Dominik Bukowski Group led by Dominik himself, a jazz vibraphonist and composer with many achievements. The bassist is also Polish; Piotr Lemaczyk and two other players is Indonesian. They are the scientific pianist with lightning speed fingers Sri Hanuraga and brilliant young drummer Jessilardus Mates. Clearly the energetic tunes with complex rhythms and harmonies were served interactively between them. Who could believe that “Bengawan Solo”, the masterpiece of maestro Gesang was actually famous in the 60’s in Poland? Dominik told us so, and the way they played was simply elegant. Musicians from different sides of the sphere are connected in one common language, resulted a delightful package. Meanwhile, young trumpeter/vocalist from New York City, Jumaane Smith was in brass-showdown with Ron King Quintet.
What can bass do in a group? You’d be surprise when the question’s given to Indro Hardjodikoro. With his group Indro Hardjodikoro The Finger, he pushes bass much more forward to take the role of other melodic instruments. In some ways he can even make it like ‘singing’. Along with his former student Fajar Adi Nugroho, keyboardist Andy Gomez, and drummer Yandi Andaputra, featured Gilang, Yankjay, and Soukma. Indro once again showcased a bass party. What a fun and pleasuring show as always. Indro Hardjodikoro The Finger has released their new album featuring Tompi, which is ‘Gadis Shanghai’.
This legend’s known as the Indonesian George Benson. He plays guitar and sings just as good. He has many hits both in solo career and as a part of a group. That’s Mus Mudjiono. At this year’s episode he got his own show that he took as a media to share his music journey which spans for 30 years the least. Then Angela Nazar, the lady who successfully became the runner up of the Dutch’s X-Factor shared her weapon that made her climb that far. Once known as a reliable band member and additional player, this year Kevin Josua shows his leadership in a quartet formation, just like in his debut album (released this year) titled “Contradiction”. Sri Hanuraga as pianist, Robert Mulyarahardja as guitarist, and Dezca Anugrah as drummer accompanied him on stage.
We have seen many vocal harmony groups in Java Jazz Festival, from New York Voices, Duwende to Manhattan Transfer. This year came Naturally 7, a group of seven musicians who serve music they call “Vocal Play”. Vocal Play? Yes, because they utilize their vocals in unison to recreate musical instruments in variety from drums, bass to guitars. They have performed with Michael Buble and Quincy Jones just to mention a few. You thought you heard full band, but no, they were all made by human voices. Jazzy, soulful, and very entertaining, no wonder they bagged standing applause everywhere they landed.
Dian Pramana Putra reprised his cool show by bringing his fans into the memory lane. Many hits were brought up on stage, for instance “Aku Ini Punya Siapa” and “Kau Seputih Melati” which was played with solo guitar acoustic. Deddy Dhukun is a musical soul-mate for Dian PP, so tonight he joined the show as supporting act for Dian. The blues madman Shohei Yamaki was on Delta, and then the come back of Indonesian nu-jazz group, Sova on A1 stage. The showdown between Lawrence Aswin (Larry) and Edward Andez (Andezzz) was refreshing to watch, especially after being on hiatus for no less than 9 year. One thing for sure, Sova is back with a vengeance.
Payung Teduh, a rocketed group of four talented fellows with their acoustic specialty, got their own session, had Riza Arshad as guest star, so did simakDialog who has been redefining the east meets west concept by replacing drums with kendang set in a never ending innovation and exploration for 20 years and had Mian Tiara also as guest in “My Favorite Things”. SimakDialog doesn’t go with vocalist that often. So, when they make this kind of turn, for us it’s something different. We even think it’s a good move that should be carried on. Taking the name of one legendary actor, the Steve McQueens stands as a proud Neo-Vintage Soul Funk band from Singapore but signed to Japanese label, P-Vine. While keeping the soul and groove alive, they have the free improvised sounds, from soulful to sultry, from eclectic to eccentric. This group really captured the modern, urban bright light city vibe while sounding soulfully sweet like the way it was back then.
The night was already late when Oleta Adams stood on stage. You should remember her golden hit, “Get Here” right? It was in 1990. Now she’s ready to give something new. The new album Let’s Stay Here, rooted in soulful jazz influenced music that shares many stories, covering good and bad times. That includes “Feeling Good”, originally Nina Simone’s but later popularized by Michael Buble again. Oleta has a very thick and rich voice as a gift; certainly it was lovely to listen. Jon Regen, a protégé of Kenny Barron was cool all the way to midnight. If pop rock (n roll) world has Billy Joel or Elton John as singing pianist, happy to say that the jazz world now has Jon Regen spicing it up.
Bintang Indrianto Trio ++ is the current band of bassist, composer and music producer Bintang Indrianto. This group has been running since 2014 until now. If you wonder about the ++, this symbol enables him to collaborate or feature more players as he wants to. Bonita and Joel Achmad are some of the names who filled the extension. AS for the trio, guitarist Denny Chasmala and drummer Iqball are his mates.
Kenny Lattimore represented the world of neo soul the purest way. He just sings with his tender soft voice naturally without any intention to show off once so ever, the result is soothing, relaxing and deeply romantic. Song list? Special treat. The Beatles’ “And I Love Her”, “All My Tomorrows”, “Climb the Mountain”, to “Fly Me to The Moon” and of course, “For You”. Oh yeah, Michael Lington was featured too in his show. Together they played a song from Lington’s album “Soul Appeal” (which actually sang by Lattimore) entitled “Gonna Love You Tonite”. The soul man/hearthrob Kenny Lattimore was way too hot to handle for ladies, as we heard many of them screamed throughout his show. Hot for the ladies, charming for all.
Harvey Mason is back again, this time highlighting his latest album, “Chameleon”. This title track came from Herbie Hancock’s classic hit from 1973 that got Mason’s rhythmic spank over the jazz-funk staple. Mr Mason has graced so many Java Jazz Festivals edition either as a soloist or with Fourplay, but we can never get tired of him. As one of the most recorded and in-demand drummers of all time, he always offers many things to learn and enchantingly entertaining at the same time. A source of inspiration for drummers and jazz musicians in general he is indeed.
As Laya Putri delivered the beauty of jazz from female jazz singer, Gustu Brahmanta Trio on the other hand transferred the sacred Balinese spirit through their music. The trio combines Western and Balinese instruments, using drums, percussion, contrabass and rindik, gamelan. If you think ethnic music should only played by big ensemble, Gustu Brahmanta Trio proves the otherwise. The three players dare to bring the Balinese jazz concept alive with just minimalist formation. And it works perfectly. Timeless Fusion Party consists of 6 players that are carrying the mission to share the instrumental music to the Chinese spoken world. In order to do so, they combine western groove and eastern melody, fusing it to create a unique new hybrid. On the C1 hall Dewa Budjana rested his case. Throughout 2014 Budjana has been busy having tour to USA and producing some albums involving many overseas superstars, so of course we need to see his show to be updated.
It was already midnight, but there were several shows to be done. The Overtunes, a brotherly music group with Mikha Angelo from X-Factor as frontman. They completed their performance with Al Jarreau’s “Morning”, Kenny Loggins’ “Heart to Heart”, and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors”. Plus, and of course, his own hit “Sayap Pelindungmu”. LaidThis Nite Orchestra played after midnight while Shadow Puppets played with Reed Ensemble featuring Harvey Malaiholo this time, also playing the works of Cole Porter.
Now time passed midnight but the crowd were still there waiting for another guest star, Sheila on 7 were ready to meet their loyal fans. Not so long ago, there was a bad experience where this band couldn’t make their come back moment on stage. Now, they got another chance, a better one, at a big yet prestigious event, Java Jazz Festival 2015. What a proper moment to officially back on stage, greet their fans, and fill our craving of their music, this time with the support of Ron King Big Band to drive them more into the jazz lane. Recently they released the 8th album, “Musim yang Baik”, they served us with new tunes without forgetting our longing to their old but everlasting hits.
The soul singer who we think is like the young Donny Hathaway, having smooth, sexy but deep vocal style Jarrod Lawson also ran almost at the end of Day 1. This man took the road of old school funky soul with gospel music. It really was nice to listen after munching so many shows since the afternoon. Another last show was Meshell Ndegeocello who is a unique artist and multi talented. Other than standing as a singer, she is also a rapper, bassist and songwriter. Speaking of music, hers involves wide variety of influences including jazz, funk, soul all the way to rock and even reggae.
Phew, what a day it was. But that was still Day 1. There will be two more days of actions. Stay tuned for more!
Read the report from Java Jazz Festival Day 2 >> http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/java-jazz-festival-2015-day-2/
Read the report from Java Jazz Festival Day 3 >> http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/java-jazz-festival-2015-day-3/
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