Red White Jazz Lounge: The Return of JAVAJAZZ

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A supergroup has finally made its return after few years absence. It was a big surprise for the fans when Indra Lesmana confirmed JAVAJAZZ to play at Red White Jazz Lounge for January 2012 program. Located at Kemang, Jakarta, the group held two shows on Friday (January 27, 2012) and Saturday (January 28, 2012). Looking at this wonderful news, we planned to visit one of those schedules from the beginning, and we made it on Saturday.

It’s wonderful to see JAVAJAZZ appears again right on the surface. Before we continue the report from this event, let’s rewind their history first. This band was formed in August 1991 when Indra Lesmana was invited to perform in Hawaii and Los Angeles. The music concept was taken from the previous band of Indra Lesmana, [flickr id=”6791457217″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”right”] Donny Suhendra, Gilang Ramadhan and Jeffrey Tahalele, the group that became the embryo of JavaJazz. A memorable move was made when the late legend Embong Rahardjo was called in to give much thicker jazz taste with his seductive saxophone playing. Then, the JavaJazz was born.

The group carried on after returning from USA. The group then was shuffled by having Cendy Luntungan, Jeffrey Tahalele and Ron Reeves in. Then came the first gem, “Bulan Di Asia” in 1994. The title track which contained the combination of Sundanese pentatonic scales, Mandarin and Balinese scence in the glorious fusion became the masterpiece that is still loved dearly by the fans until today. After they performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the second album “Sabda Prana” was released with another change on the formation.

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Then came the big shock when Embong Rahardjo passed away. Realizing that he was one of the most important member and irreplaceable, the rest of the team decided to put the group on rest. “We suffered a great loss when he passed away. On one occasion we played in quartet in tribute to him and after that night’s performance, we [flickr id=”6791456643″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”left”] realized something was missing in our music, and that was the time to put JavaJazz to sleep.” said Indra Lesmana in our interview with him. Years passed, apparently the friends and fans somehow still wished for their return. Due to the massive supports, finally Indra Lesmana decided to bring the band back but with a surprising decision. Instead of having a new saxophonist to replace Embong, he chose to bring two guitarists that bridged the formations, Dewa Budjana and Donny Suhendra altogether. After 11 years hiatus, finally the band made their return. Not only by various performances but also with a double CD album, “Joy Joy Joy” in 2009. (The album is available at our online store:  http://store.jazzuality.com/products/javajazz-joy-joy-joy/  )

[flickr id=”6791455563″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”right”] Through this album we got the chance again to hear the music directly from hearts and souls of the magnificent five: Indra Lesmana, Gilang Ramadhan, A.S Mates, Donny Suhendra and Dewa Budjana as well as having the lovely memory back again when Embong Rahardjo was still alive. With this album they have found their way to come up again from the deep and long sleep, offering many new stories for us to talk about. Then the group went dissapeared again. We didn’t hear anything about this group for 2 years until finally they made another memorable comeback at the Red White Jazz Lounge with the same formation as the Joy Joy Joy period.

Java Jazz opened the show with “Drama”, taken from their first album Bulan Di Asia (also included in the 2nd CD of Joy Joy Joy). Back then when the cassette was released, JavaJazz still consisted of Indra Lesmana as keyboard and synth, Embong Rahardjo as saxophone, Dewa Budjana on guitar, Cendy Luntungan on drums and Jeffrey Tahalele on bass. Now as we watched “Drama” played by the most recent formation of JavaJazz, we couldn’t stop to raise our hands in the air and clapped our hands.

[flickr id=”6791457743″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”left”] They continued the show with “Violation”. Before JAVAJAZZ played this song, Indra Lesmana told a funny story behind it. This song was made by Embong Rahardjo in 1991 before they went to USA. “Embong made this song when he frequently stopped by the police for violating the traffic laws. But Embong often got away by giving them money. So who’s violated who then?” joked Indra that made the crowds laughed. JavaJazz put on a hauntingly beautiful performance on this one.

“The Seeker” came next followed by “I Wish”. Still taken from the album Bulan Di Asia, this time both were rearranged into a whole new composition that was really tasty. Their stunning performance along with the total energy made Glenn Fredly who came to watched their show jumped excitedly during this song. This song sealed the first session.

After the 20 minutes break, Indra Lesmana came back by thanking everyone who came to the show. Indra’s brother in law Mathias Muchus was spotted inside the lounge.

[flickr id=”6791456255″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”right”] “Exit Permit” became the opening of the second round, followed by “Border Line”, written by Indra Lesmana and Dewa Budjana. This intense composition was inspired by the conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia about the Ambalat border. This composition described their expression over the conflict perfectly, which is still relevant until today since we do still have many problems about the borders with one of our closest neighbouring countries. They seemed to pour out all of their energy in this one. The audience were sucked deep into the energetic performance. They cheered many times especially when Gilang gave out his action-packed solo drums along with Mates’ ever-cool bass playing.

Right after the heat caused by Border Line, JAVAJAZZ slowed down with the calm and touching “Crystal Sky”. This composition was made when Indra’s father, Jack Lesmana passed away. Here the audience had the chance to catch their breath after the previous two intense compositions.

As much as we enjoyed the moment, the show had to end with “Java’s Wheather”. As the title described, this song is meant to be the JAVAJAZZ’ version of Weather Report, one of the bands that influenced the group from the beginning. This song was dedicated to the late Joe Zawinul, one of the founders of the legendary Weather Report as well as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion, the music that successfully combined jazz with elements of rock plus some touches of world music. More fact about this song, the title actually changed many times. it was called “Zawinul”, then “Ramalan Cuaca (Weather Forecast)” and finally ended up as “Java’s Weather”. The song was written by Indra Lesmana on Zawinul’s birthday at home by using sequencer. The joy of fusion served nicely here, a very interesting song with exact fine blend of every ingredient from jazz to rock. This lovely gift of fusion wrapped the whole show.

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Such amazing return with amazing result. They totally quenched the thirst of their fans. Attractive performance, their expressions and world-class explorations made everyone got carried away. Their experience and chemistry were well-felt by everyone. We are very happy and fortunate to witness these ‘jazz gods’ back as one again and hope to see more of them in the near future. In February another supergroup will make its way to comeback. It’s KAYON, the group of Indra Lesmana, Pra Budidharma and Gilang Ramadhan that of course will bring another surprises in the different way. It was such a pleasure to watch JAVAJAZZ’s tremendous show last Saturday. Thank you JAVAJAZZ, you guys really know how to gave us the greatest weekend ever!

See more pictures:

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Reporter & Photographer: Agung Hartamurti Wirawan
Editor: Riandy Kurniawan

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