We are just done with the third edition of JAZZUALITY @ TP, our new regular jazz community event taking place at the cozy, comfy TP Stage in cooperation with the venue, The Papandayan Hotel. In this Jazzuality @ TP .03, for the first time we brought in a different jazz flavor that’s not only progressive but also has strong scent of ethnic music, especially the Sundanese traditional sound. We also featured a trio consisting of veterans who has been active for many, many years. Some has even reached over 3 decades career. Then, a smooth, simple acoustic duo were completing the lineup.
We started with the duo, representing the soft, sweet side of jazz. The duo continued their participation after our Braga Jazz Night Christmas Edition just a month earlier. It’s LUIS & JHONNY where the delicate, smooth satin voice of Luis Anastasia Sinaga lives harmoniously with the efortless guitar playing by Jhonny Sitompul.
Although the pairing is new, both of them are no stranger to us. Luis has been a part of our event since she was still in high school with her vocal harmony group Puella and her church’s band MY Kids. As for Jhonny who’s been teaching at the Purwa Caraka Music Studio since the millenium, he supported Erick Gabe, Caroline and brought his own project too. We think this is a promising pairing, so we gladly welcomed them to enjoy the experience of playing in the TP Stage.
Luis already mesmerized the audience when she was still testing the mike. Right after we opened the event, Luis & Jhonny took us to the evergreen from Louis Armstrong in the early 70’s, “What a Wonderful World”. She sang it beautifully with her satin smooth and relaxing vibe. Calm, good control and heartfelt. She brought it effortlessly natural. Jhonny provided all the melody that’s needed to make each song presented in perfect sound.
For the second song they took one of today’s big hits from Adele, “All I Ask”. If in the first song she looked a bit nervous, on this one she was totally over it and sang with full emotion. Jhonny’s guitar cried with her which nicely delivered the message contained in this Adele’s hit. For the last song she chose Keith Martin famous song, “Because of You”. Well, this song suits her vocal character. We have no doubt that if she ever put this song in recordings, you would love to listen to it over and over again. It was that good.
While the possibilities of exploring jazz is limitless, jazz can appear beautiful in simple form in more pop too like this. Luis & Jhonny represented the soft and tender side of it that everyone can easily listen to. The pairing is really good. Eventhough they both came from different generation, they can blend together in sweet harmony. You might haven’t heard her name just yet, but once you listen to Luis, you will agree that this girl has a very, very beautiful voice. We look forward to bring her back again in later episodes.
The second act was a trio of veterans named JIM CONNECTION. We got connected with the band after we’re in touch with its guitarist/founder Amoeng Gaia. As the name suggested, Amoeng has a successful band rooted in alternative rock named Gaia, established in 1997. So he is a rock guitarist then? Sure. But he is also a jazz guitarist. And actually, he has been playing jazz for more than 30 years, at least he had done it in 1984 alongside Jilly Likumahuwa. “I play alternative rock a lot, but whenever I play jazz, I go with this band (Jim Connection)”, he said to us. With Jim Connection, he happily fulfills his jazzy side by playing jazz standards (the real book).
With the Jim Connection, Amoeng plays with the iconic, highly respected senior drummer Henky Suparjan, and the female bassist with monster groove famously known as the member of SHE band and Jazzy Juice, Arnie Christanti.
The band brought in spontaneous jamming way of performance. With manic bass-lines of Arnie, Amoeng’s sharp and fast guitar fingering and steady but rich beat from drum courtesy of Henky, they built something which turned out to be a different version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. This is what’s interesting. In our other event less than a month ago, there was a band who boldly took this song as a palette to paint their rockin’ blues soul, far different than the original. This time Jim Connection took it into another side of jazz. From them, “Take Five” still appears fully in jazz but placed into classic rock and blues atmosphere, with freedom of playing and lots of twists. The tradings they served and some cool solo runs were entertaining.
Their out of the box rendition continued on with “The Day of Wine and Roses”, an evergreen written by two legends, music by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. In the hands of these senior musicians, each song appeared as if their own. For the last song they took Sting’s “Fragile”. In this one Arnie got her chance to handle the melody and again, they made it their own. Big round applause were given to them in the end.
In the hands of these two senior gentlemen and a rhytmic lady, jazz appeared with fresh with attitude. They don’t need to pretend to be someone else, nor that they think too much of playing anything. They just went sailing and gave their best punches by using their true self. The experience, skill, passion and love over jazz were all painted in their show. Amoeng and Arnie rarely play together, yet they were tightly locked in harmony as if they have been playing together for ages. Three different songs from different sources and generations, but somehow connected like three chapters of one book. Their colorful backgrounds created an unconventional jazz. It’s clearly jazz, but with so much more. We really appreciate the participation of senior musicians like them, beause we believe what they give can also be learnt by the young musicians rather than just entertaining.
Speaking of chaptes and unconventional, the last act presented it in totally different story. The group consisting of 5 dudes who we always see as music explorers than just musicians. This ring of friends have been having great time since 2017 with so many movements. Their music is different. You can clearly feel the jazz vibes, but not in the ordinary way as you can capture some rock, blues even classical inside their crafts.
If you think that’s all, they also have strong infuse of traditional music along the way, particularly Sundanese. That’s make possible by the using of kendang (the double-headed drum) and various bamboo woodwinds. All feels natural and effortless. They are not the only band who bring this kind of crossover music and the combination of modern-traditional instruments, yet they manage to have their own style of sound which you can easily differ from others. We are always proud of this band and wish more people will notice and give them credit. It’s the amazing WEST JAVA SYNDICATE.
Ever since the band established in 2010, it has been moving progressively. With all the ups and downs, the band keeps its creativity that for us goes beyond ordinary. While some bands who share simiiar concept could struggle for years to find the perfect blend, this band found the grip early but still evolving as time goes by. The rhythmic connection between drum and kendangs are always a catch, because more than just serving action, the unusual beat from two players is seamless and tight. Then, imagine a rockin’ bassist goes pentatonic on his bass, the pianist who is always ‘in the zone’ on stage, and a spectacular traditional woodwinds player who has a haunting humming voice. All captured in their concert.
They have released two recordings so far, one EP a couple of years ago and a full album titled “Bubuka” in 2017. The West Java Syndicate always love to extend their musical coverage, as they are happy to collaborate boldly with musicians from another corner, even the unthinkable one like when they serve West Java-West Sumatra connection by having some of the Minangkabau progressive ensemble, Palanta Line Art. We always want them to be exposed wider to more and more people, because we think they are unique and rich in soundscapes and performance.
There have been several changes being made, but since the last couple of years the formation found its most solid shape with founder Zahar Mustilaq (drum), Yopi D Nafis (keys), Dede SP (bass), the youngest of them all IpinZbet (kendang) and Randy Gevenk (woodwinds). Together they are taking the audience and listeners to enter a surrealistic music-magination we might never thought existed.
For this event, Zahar brought his own Nekara drum and Nebulae cymbals, a genuine Indonesian products that have really good sound. The eerie sound appeared before Randy added karinding sound followed by the rest of them and their respective instruments. The first song was the title track of their new album “Bubuka” which was used to introduce the audience to their multi-dimensional world as well as the entrance.
After loud applauses being thrown to them, they took us deeper into their world but this time showing their sensitive side with their romantic tune “Tembang Katresna”. In English, the title means “Love Song”, written by Yopi D Nafis when he proposed his beloved wife, Misty. This song has a sweet melody in Sundanese pentatonic style. The composer was in charge, but it still has a lot of space for the rest of West Java Syndicate to place their signatures.
The band then played the last song they wrote for the album tributing the late key-wiz and composer Riza Arshad who passed away exactly last year. The song’s titled “Like Brother Like Teacher”, showing who Riza was to them. Yopi and Randy are the composers of this song. This song is emotional and sad, making us mourn with them over the loss of a respected figure who is like a mentor and brother at the same time. Zahar made a little quiz afterwards and gave one free Bubuka CD to pianist Widiyanto Sutanto who answered his question right.
They moved on with the glittery, much brighter tune “City of Light”. As the climax, they played their song from the EP written by Zahar Mustilaq, “Gending Rame Ku Kendang.” This song was played intense, full of high-octane action and highly entertaining. IpinZbet got a very important role on this one, especially with his solo opening and his beatboxing while still beating up the double-headed drums. They served a full-throttled coda with rising intensity which stunned everyone inside the TP Stage. The combination of expressive, attractive, blazing performance with thrilling dynamic pushed us to the edge of our seat, creating one spectacular ending for the Jazzuality @ TP .03.
The cohesive work between drum and kendang, the bass player who serves more than just usual role, the explorative piano playing and the mystical sound of traditional woodwinds opens up a Sundanese musical realm in progressive multi-dimensional soundscape through different moods – from grand, majestic, playful to intense action. We always love visiting this musical territory rarely existed, something that we can always have by having these mad syndicate on stage. It’s magical, it’s sensational, with the kind of spirit they have inside their nature. Like a showdown of playful wizards, they delivered bags of surprises and lots of jokes throughout the show. We feel happy to bring them here. Thank you West Java Syndicate for always being a part of us!
As there were some musicians came to this edition, we gave them a chance to jam. Pianist Widiyanto Sutanto and drummer Marissa Wiguna, real-life couple stepped in along with two West Java Syndicate members Yopi D Nafis and ipinZbet. They played “Just the Two of Us” in a unique way. Unique? Indeed. Because this song was played by using both kendang and drum by musicians who didn’t know each other. Widiyanto at first served as the bassist by using keyboard, but then he got his time to improvise. It was cool to see since Yopi and the grand piano were placed behind his back, yet both of them could exchange role smoothly.
Another interesting chapter is added into the Jazzuality @ TP. We got acoustic pop jazz/RnB, swing with splashes of rock and blues and multi-dimensional cross Sundanese ethno-progressive fusion as the miniature of the united colors of jazz, something we always intend to bring in any of our event.
We will be back again on 11 February 2018 with a different batch. There will be another cross ethno-progressive fusion, but this time it will be from West Sumatra (Minangkabau), a native American who plays Sundanese harp, the pianist of Jazzy Juice/SHE band, and the single promo of a power house soul singer who is now going international. Your attendance is important, because by coming you will show your support to the playing band, to jazz and the regeneration and development of jazz musicians which stands as the top list of our mission. Hope to see you again in two weeks.
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Reporter/Photographer: Riandy Kurniawan .