The Aula Barat (West Hall) of The Institute Technology of Bandung (ITB) is undoubtedly related to the Indonesia’s jazz history especially Bandung. Built in 1919 by a Dutch architect Henry Maclaint Pont, this venue has held uncountable art and cultural activities, including music and jazz. This building was the home of so many jazz events during the 70’s and 80’s which made it identical with jazz.
In 2013 the Aula Barat began its new chapter of jazz presentation through the cooperation between the official students’ unit of ITB, the ITB Jazz (formerly known as IT Jazz), the Public Relation of ITB (Humas ITB) and one of its proud alumni, Riza Arshad presenting #3scapes or Trioscapes (read the coverage here: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/jazz-aula-barat-episode-1-3scapes-the-report/). The event was simply called Jazz Aula Barat.
We wished to see a solid reborn, however it didn’t happen until 2016 when the second and third edition took place in this venue. We finally saw the good start. Unfortunately Riza Arshad passed away due to heart attack in January. That made us worry about the continuation of this event. We feel relieved to know that the ITB Jazz is committed to keep this event running which and remind all jazz lovers of the high historical jazz value contained in this west hall.
On March 10th, 2017, the Jazz Aula Barat #4 was held with huge success, featuring cross-nation musicians led by the former state pianist of Indonesia (for 15 years!) graduated from Moscow Conservatory (majoring Contemporary Jazz) who is specialized in Latin Jazz and the cross jazz-classical sensation, Nita Aartsen. The band she brought in was the one she has been with since long time ago, Nita Aartsen Quatro.
Nita is not a stranger to us since we have been following her jazz movement for many years. We also completely aware of the amazing skill and experience of the other players in this team. Joining her was a French multi-instrumentalist Jean Sébastien, a trumpeter, drummer and pianist as well as an established arranger and composer.
On bass is the unique, one of a kind bassist who expand the role of bass to the stage we thought would never exist the way he demonstrates in Ligro Trio, Adi Darmawan. Not only he is unique in his bass playing, he also has a very unique appearance too.
Other than bringing a drummer, Nita took in the senior kendang / percussion player who has been involved in so many important projects, Jalu G Pratidina. This man is a genius in combining the two different worlds, the traditional eastern and modern western , building the bridge in creating a different textured music particularly jazz. Don’t forget that he was also the one who sat behind the set of kendang first of all when Riza Arshad’s brainchild simakDialog decided to replace the role of drum with kendang back in many , many years ago.
Nita has played with these inspiring musicians for many years. Although we haven’t seen this exact formation, we have witnessed the greatness of their musical performances in many occassions. For example, we watched the rich textured sound created by Nita and Jalu in Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2015 (https://jazzuality.com/jazz-events/ubud-village-jazz-festival-2015-day-1-report/), Nita, Jalu and Adi in Salihara’s Jazz Buzz 2014 (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/salihara-jazz-buzz-2014-nial-djuliarso-interpreting-american-masters-and-nita-aartsen-from-baroque-to-romantic/) and Nita-Jean connection in Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2016 (https://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/ubud-village-jazz-festival-2016-day-2-the-report/). Because of that, we knew what to expect, yet after watching them, they literally exceeded our expectation.
The show began with trio formation where Nita started with shimmering, sentimental opening that led to Ludwig van Beethoven’s arguably most popular composition written circa 1810, “Für Elise”. How often do you listen to this classical masterpiece by having the combination of piano, electric bass and kendang? If you wonder, it worked like magic. what’s even cooler is that they didn’t just play it in classical way, but in contemporary Cuban jazz and then strong Sundanese sketches without leaving out the original beauty. The audience showered them with loud applauses. Right from the start Nita showed her music style which has been making her stand in a different league. She even did a mystical scat singing in Sundanese music while her hands danced joyfully above the keys. Jalu’s solo run was mind-bending.
She called Jean Sébastien to join them for a fine interpretation of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado”. The sound of trumpet smoothly caressing our hearts. “Entropy” became their next playground.
As if they wanted to rise the intensity, they brought in Dave Brubeck’s masterpiece from 1959, “Blue Rondo à la Turk”. This song could always bring such action especially when it lies in the hands of masters like this. Jalu once again revealed how rich the sound of kendang is as his beat moved back and forth throughout the song. The seamless combination of Latin jazz and Sundanese was still pulsing strong. A smooth, dreamy composition of Jean Sebastien titled “Dolmen” started with solo bass and ethnic humming by Adi. Later on Nita also displayed her strong characteristic vocal in this song. In the middle, Jean switched from trumpet to drum in this song and joined Jalu in providing the beat. How often do you see a trumpeter plays drum at the same time? We rarely seen it until tonight.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Turkish March” also known as “Rondo Alla Turca” gave an energy booster to the audience. Surprisingly, Nita led the audience to sing “Rayuan Pulau Kelapa” in the middle of the song, also gave splashes of keroncong and Melayu sound and rhythm in it. The accordion sound was provided by Nita by using keyboard which was placed on her right side.
Next they played Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s “Senor Mouse” where the speed and high-octane action took everyone to the edge of their seat. It was stunning.
Nita then took a moment to share her grief of Riza Arshad’s passing two months ago before she led Jean, Adi and Jalu dedicated a song for Riza. The song they chose was Guruh Soekarnoputra’s “Melati Suci” popularized by Tika Bisono in the Swara Mahardika’s second album. A very emotional moment was captured as they paid respect to Riza.
Not wanting to let the audience went home in sadness, Nita Aartsen Quatro delivered one final song for tonight, another song from Chick Corea’s 1972 album titled “La Fiesta”. Like a matador, Jean Sebastien blew used his trumpet to bring us into a festive trip to the colorful Spain. Jean told us that as a ‘world’ citizen, he has visited so many parts of the world and picked up the musical patterns wherever he’s landed. One of the strong roots inside him is Gypsy, that’s why he could resonates the Spanish music as if he came from there. This song indeed is about celebration. Nita, Jean, Adi and Jalu nailed it joyfully.
It was supposed to be the last song, but the audience clearly needed more. Not wanting to dissapoint the audience, they agreed to play one last song. As the encore, Nita presented a song she once played at the North Sea Jazz Festival. The song is familiar to Bandung people, an evergreen “Bubuy Bulan” written by native Philippines who lived in West Java, Benny Corda. This song gave one last charm to the audience, adding much pleasure that everyone in the hall will remember for a long time.
From what we have seen in four editions, Jazz Aula Barat which was initiated by Riza Arshad and the ITB Jazz is serious in making the event as a home of jazz in Bandung. It has historic value, it carries the legacy of Riza and the spirit of jazz among the people of ITB (students, lecturers and alumnus) and certainly, it is important for the jazz development even the future of jazz in Bandung.
With incredibly affordable ticket price, jazz lovers could enjoy some of the best players this nation has also renowned international musicians. For this edition Nita Aartsen Quatro sprinkled the beauty of jazz in a different way to everyone who came. Along with the amazing gentlemen, she opened up a new realm in music where cassical, jazz, Latin and various eastern music blend together seamlessly, naturally. Highly skilled players, tight chemistry was felt among them as they poured out music from their soul in style and ellegance.
We wish ITB Jazz, Humas ITB, Imam Pras and everyone behind the event the best. What you are doing is important! May you have the power to keep this event alive. We look forward to see the 5th edition. See you then.
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