Swing in an ensemble formation is always special. Indonesia does have many big sized bands that are tend to bring modern genres by adapting to the popular music. Nothing’s wrong with that of course, but we still need the big bands who still have the passion to root themselves in the traditional swing. It takes a lot of guts to do that though, since that goes against the mainstream or today’s music trend. But if you’re a jazz lovers, can you resist the magic brought by the collision of around 20 instruments sound together? No matter where we are at in life, the joy of swingin’ big band will never fail to hook us up.
This swingin’ big band were highly popular, even became a trend from the roaring ’20s era until ’40s. You can read some historical books or even watch some movies to see how big it was during that time, when swing was spread like a fever from ballrooms and clubs in some states in USA to go further across states and nations. Some great names took part in expanding this ensemble form. Legends like Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington were believed as the pioneer who gradually changing the band concept into the creative big band, then we should also mention other names like Luis Russell, Louis Armstrong, Joe ‘King’ Oliver, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller among others.
Let’s take a look at Salamander Big Band. This is a big band consists of the combination of highly experienced players and the young ones from Bandung. Since it was formed in 2006 by Devy Ferdianto who now acts as the conductor (occasionally also stands as playing musician), Salamander Big Band has made some touchdowns in some prestigious events like Java Jazz, JakJazz, Schouwburg Festival and countless local musical events. So eventhough they have young players even the teenagers, they are all more than capable to bring this traditional concept alive. The last time we met them was at the “Salamander Big Band 5th Anniversary Concert 2011” where they flew high and wide in bringing compositions with the atmosphere from 20’s all the way to 60’s and 70’s. We still remember the nice collaboration with the legendary Margie Segers on vocal and Professor Dieter Mack as the conductor. This year they repeated the same success in different theme.
Salamander Big Band put back the energy this year to “Salamander Big Band Mid Year Concert 2012” last night, Thursday, June 14, 2012. with an interesting theme which was based on the idea of serving best hits from Michael Bublé called “Bublé Night”. It was such a smart concept to choose Bublé as the highlight of this event. Although he doesn’t always totally dip in swing or even jazz too much lately, his crooning voice always connects us to jazz. His vocal, charisma, and music have grabbed the public’s attention from various circles of society. The cozy up-hill Selasar Sunaryo Art Space at Bukit Pakar Timur,Dago area, Bandung was perfect for enjoying these wonderful musical treatment. This show became a part of the JazzSphere@ArtSpace program which firstly initated by Klab Jazz some times ago. The coordinator of KlabJazz Dwi Cahya Yuniman was there too enjoying the show.
Speaking of the importance of regeneration, Salamander Big Band also put its mind on it. Other than keeping the path of the main band, they also work hard in establishing the junior band. Calling it as the Sangkuriang Youth Orchestra, this band consists mostly of teenagers who surprisingly can already play good traditional swing, even with twists. They became the opening of this event by playing two songs, “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “James Bond Theme.”
What an amazing view it was to see this show got over crowded with audiences. From what we saw, it might even exceeded 600 people inside, including fellow musicians from Jakarta and Bogor who came to watch and give their support.
The Salamander Big Band opened up grand with “All Night Long”, stating that they would pleasure everyone all through the night. Devy greeted everyone and stated his excitement to play in open air for the first time. Gail Satiawaki was called on stage and sang “Me and Mrs Jones”. Still in the second song, we saw some couples held hands or even hugged during this one.
The owner of the venue Mr Sunaryo came and gave a little speech, then personally asked his favorite song, “Terima Kasih Cinta”. Nenden Syintawati who he called his favorite singer came and sang this one. Her thick soulful voice filled with emotions when singing this famous Afgan song. A little birthday celebration was next, because Mrs Sunaryo got her birthday on the same day.
Imelda Rosalin and Gail Satiawaki did a nice duet on “I Won’t Dance”. If before we took the Michael Buble and Jane Monheit as the most beautiful version, Gail and Imelda successfully matched it. The Art Space Selasar Sunaryo filled with grand ballroom mood right away with this one. Queen’s evergreen which brought back on top again by Buble, “This Thing Called Love” was next. The swingin’ rock n roll was gloriously kept in pocket. This song was made by Freddie Mercury with Elvis Presley in mind while Queen was touring in Germany. Buble made it back alive again in full swing mode and last night Gail and the Salamander Big Band did it again their way. Bramania Bachtiar did rock n roll solo guitar just like Brian May in the middle impressively.
The special guest star Iwan Abdie was introduced and directly sang “Moondance”. This became the first time for us to see him sing under the big band and certainly his first experience as well, as he stated to us just a while before he came on stage. No doubt, he’s perfect to take on some heavy swing. He carried on with another beauty, “Kissing A Fool”. “So this is the sound of big band.. I never knew what it exactly was until tonight. It’s swing, right? I loved it for long time, only I didn’t know what it’s called.” said an audiences who stood next to us.
“I Got You Under My Skin” seemed to bring Sinatra back alive. Again the glorious swing mood cheered us totally under the open sky of the upper side of Bandung.
15 minutes break enabled the whole big band to rest. The audiences were treated with delicious cookies, and later they even provided free dinner to everyone! Imagine a free concert with free meals and drinks, that’s rarely happen. But as this show was planned to be a big party from the start, something unbelievable like this were actually happened for real.
A catchy opening for the second part of the show with some excerpts of the chunky 70’s scene inside was given nicely. We spotted the Minister of Industry Mr M.S Hidayat in between the crowds, then Devy called him to come on stage for a little speech and to received a gift. Mr Hidayat said that he’s been waiting for Salamander Big Band for so long. “I think they are one of the best in Indonesia”, he said. The crowds cheered and applaused, showing that they all agreed with him.
The amazing Nenden Syintawati got back on stage to sing “Cry Me a River” in romantic smooth swing. She did great in spreading totally romantic mood throughout the venue. Then Gail took over the mike and sang “Call Me Irresponsible”. Iwan Abdie took it even higher with the classic “Come Fly With Me” and “Feeling Good”, where the big band roared bigger, badder than ever.
“You’re Nobody Till Somebody Love You” served chilled by Gail. We’ve enjoyed Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé among other crooners sang this song, now Gail added his signature. Iwan Abdie switched the atmosphere to rock n roll with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”. Gail set even bigger fire with the swingin’ salsa “It Had Better Be Tonight (Meglio Stasera).” It seemed too hot to handle, because we saw many people couldn’t help themselves not to dance. That was supposed to be the last song, but the whole crowds gave standing applauses and asked for more. Not wanting to dissapoint the crowds, Devy and the band came back again to bring one last presentation, “For Once In My Life”. Gail, Nenden and Iwan all up on stage for this final.
What a great show it was! We’re still blown away by the magical swingin’ big band as we are writing this article. We need to give compliment for them, because it is a pride that Indonesia notably Bandung still has a big band that consistently walks on swing jazz line. There’s so many bands and singers who stand up on the jazz ground, but quite a few jazz groups who still dare to play in traditional big band frame, especially with the quality as good as them. The audiences gave a marvelous support too. Look at the number of attendees, with most of them were youngsters. This shows a good acceptance towards one of the most important roots of jazz from Indonesian music fans, especially those who live in Bandung. Some expatriates were there too among the crowds. Having Bublé song in a show like this really helped to keep everyone intact, but with or without the friendly theme, Salamander Big Band clearly had their own fans already.The band poured its heart and soul into this concert, and the result is fantastic. It was splendid and the quality of the players were getting better from year to year. “We are still learning..” said Devy to us, but if you ask us, this big band deserves an attention and of course appreciation.Speaking of the venue, many audiences loved the place. “It’s one of the best places to watch jazz, that’s for sure. I was lucky to see it.” said one of them to us.
Let’s wait for their next performance, which is scheduled to come on September 19, 2012. What’s even better is that they are looking at the possibilty to do a tour across Java for this year. Looking at the improvement and their ability, in group and individually, of course we put higher expectation. The next one has got to be more than what we have seen last night. Believe us, Salamander Big Band is more than able to do so. Congratulation and thank you Salamander Big Band for an unforgettable swingin’ night! We salute you!
SALAMANDER BIG BAND are:
Saxophones: Dicky Ampouw, Joseph Sinaga, Syifa Nurtari, Matt Ashworth, Bonny Buntoro
Trumpets: Brury Effendy, Oki Dirgualam, Dedi Siswoyo, Andry Haryono, Julianus Andreas
Trombones: Andryanto Haryanto, Agus Suherman, Afdhal Zickry, Arief Budhyana
Keyboards: Imelda Rosalin, Rika Andriyani
Guitar: Bramania Bachtiar
Bass: Roy Bimantoro
Percussion: Adya Dhivara
Vocals: Imelda Rosalin, Nenden Syintawati, Gail Satiawaki, Iwan Abdie
Conductor: Devy Ferdianto
Manager: Yongky Nusantara (Oom Yong)