Imagine this: Horizons of paddy fields, hills, steep ravines, chilly weather, smiles of the locals, and a jazz festival. You read that right fellas, a jazz festival in the middle of those beauties. If few months ago we had a jazz festival up 3,000 meters high on a mountain (Jazz Gunung 2014), the annual Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2014 offers jazz-lovers-festival-goers another unique experience for the second consecutive year. Ubud is a small town in Bali island, and is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali. This town was even featured in a 2010 movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts for its natural beauty, artsy atmosphere, and spirituality. Now since jazz has been added in it, the area is surrounded by even more magic. It was truly a wonderful experience to feel the spirit of jazz and island of God blend in. It created such feeling that you won’t find elsewhere.
Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2014 came in handy in terms of providing great value of jazzertainment. Plenty of great acts, rainbow-like variety to choose, all packed in nonstop pleasure for 8 hours straight, for two days in a row. The face of Ubud would never be the same again after it got a jazz painted colors which was initiated by the founder of Underground Jazz Movement Yuri Mahatma and the owner of ANTIDA Music Productions, Anom Darsana.
Divided into three stages (Padi, Giri and Subak), the festival started at around 3.30PM at Padi and Subak Stages, simultaneously opened by Underground Jazz Movement 1 and Underground Jazz Movement 2, two local community-based jazz projects. This community has the mission to introduce jazz to young musicians, especially those who reside in Bali. They gather mostly on Sunday afternoon until night and fill it with open discussion, talk and even play jazz. They went swinging in pure delight with tradings and improvisations included in every song . From what we saw, this Underground Jazz Movement already bear fruits, delicious ones. From now on you have to know this: if you are a musician living in Bali and wish to be familiar with jazz, all you have to do is come to their meetings. You can get a lot of information, knowledge, playing tips and many more regarding jazz. Jazz is very much alive in Bali, and there’s a community that you can put yourself into.
Carry on now. Up next at Padi stage, Seiji Endo took his turn. Endo-san is an expert in straight-ahead jazz and bebop, but for this event, his concept is solo piano. Wanna know what was up? A piano recital in nature, that’s what! Heart-capturingly beautiful, mesmerizing, clean and accurate, he immediately caught people’s curiosity and attention, and made them fall in love with the performance. It was romantic, sometimes funny, cool, and intense. Overall, his performance was story-telling. Great experience.
BID Trio consists of Balawan (guitar), Ito Kurdi (bass), and Deva Permana (drums). The funky Ito, the ethnic-rock-fused Balawan, and the ever-versatile Indonesian-born drummer but pursuing his career in the land of Oz, Deva Permana. Their concept was conversational-like performance. A lot of calls and responses, sometimes tempo-free, which formed the performance to seem like they are having conversations on stage: with their instruments. The use of effects from Balawan and his expertise in playing double neck guitar brings strong flavors to the band. They were also rhythmically strong with the combination of metric modulation and polyrhythm based on pure responding. From a composition inspired by the melody of “Gundul Gundul Pacul”, original songs Three huge names in one project, these guys really showed what we wanted to see from them. The unique collaborative performances that appeared as if it was a melting pot of three music wizards. Awesomeness overload. Another interesting fact: eventhough this is some kind of experimental project, they move fast to even has an album already.
Fun, amusing, highly enjoyable, hilarious, colorful, and danceable! As taken from their Facebook profile,”There is really nothing serious about Bali Ska Jazz Syndicate except our eagerness to have fun with our audience!”, they thoroughly entertained us all by their smart song choices packed in ska and jazz, opened with Also Sprach Zarathrustra, they also played some standards such as “I’m In The Mood For Love”, “Summertime”, and Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” with very strong straight ska beat, blues feel, and subtle funk . The band is a mixed of local-international members consists of Gatot Yudiantoro (guitar), Badud Widjanarko (bass), Elliott Smith (drums), Anders Hejlm (trumpet), Peter Bazylak (trombone), and Martin Denev (keyboard). We’re happy to meet Denev again who told us that he’s happily residing in Bali, the place that he’s been living in for the last 2.5 years. What we know about Denev is that he never wants to be conventional. He’s a breaking-through person. He plays great jazz, but he’s a star in the clubbing scene. Now that we see him in this ska band, once again Denev made unpredictable unconventional move. Dancing, feet tapping, finger snapping, and nodding audience, The Bali Ska Jazz Syndicate totally hyped up the Subak Stage.
Alexandre Cunha is the boss of Brazilian rhythm and drumming. With Ana Paula Moreti who did really great on vocals, Bruno Coppini on bass, Eduardo Gallian on guitar, Ricardo Cren on keys, and Marcelo Valezi on woodwind and percussion, this ensemble brought out strong Brazilian beat with modern chording and rhythm approach and also rich melodies. The band sounded like Tania Maria and late Astrud Gilberto, with stronger Brazilian feel in the solos and the drumming reminded us of Carlos Bala and Edu Ribeiro, figures of Brazilian jazz drumming. Alexandre Cunha has been pursuing his drumming career professionally for a couple of decades, he has released many critical acclaimed albums since his debut in 2005 titled Balepapo and has graced many big music festivals around the world. What a chance to be able to witness him infecting the audience in Arma, Ubud Bali. Bringing Cunha and his band to this event really put this festival to another level.
The fantastic female singer who has natural jazz breath and distinctive phrasing all over her voice, Dian Pratiwi reprised her great performance last year together with saxophonist Uwe Plath, her music partner in Germany, the leader of the Glen Bushman Jazz Akademie Big Band where she joined since a decade ago.
Let’s get deep with Dian Pratiwi for a while. She fell in love with jazz right after listening to Sarah Vaughn’s rendition of “Misty” and then quickly turned to Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, Randy Crawford, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and the likes as her source of inspiration. After playing together with Ireng Maulana and Yopie Item around Jakarta, she decided to move to Bali and then went to Holland, where she built her career for 6 years (including a shot at the North Sea Jazz Festival with Edwin Rutten Quartet and establishing her own bands, State of Mind and Picture This. She came back to Bali and involved in the jazz scene together with her brother Yuri Mahatma. But then in 2002 she made a decision to further develop her career in Dortmund, Germany. That’s where she met tenor saxophonist Uwe Plath, her compatriote in this event.
Last year Plath stated his support by recommending good musicians from Europe to be involved in this festival as he thinks it’s important tou establish some combinations between Indonesian and European artists. How nice it was to see that he didn’t just giving the support by giving recommendation but also by direct involvement as a participating musician. What’s great that they were not playing just by two, but they involved some other great musicians with international reputation such as Czech’s Ondrej Stveracek (sax), Dominique Elhert (drums) and Arne Donadell (piano).
A warm, homey but joyous party was served from their act. After two songs where Uwe and Ondrej demonstrated a soul connection in an energy-boosting collaborations, Dian Pratiwi made this show smoother without having to loose its wild grip. Having the assorted of jazz such as “Joy” and “Come With Me Now”, played by a group of international reputed artists in tropical, mystical Balinese surroundings was just too good to be true. The fact that they took famous songs made it even better since the audience could sing and dance together. Under the moonlight. What a scene.
Every jazz lovers in Indonesia must know Sandy Winarta. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but Sandy actually is a native Bali son. He’s a versatile jazz drummer that has achieved almost everything so fast, enjoying his success in such a young age. Lately he’s been digging the Bali jazz scene often and it’s a must to have him participating in an important event like this. For this occasion he took some of his fellows such as Jeko Fauzy on guitar, Indra Gupta on bass, and Kevin Suwandi on keys. They were playing mostly hard bop and they did really bop Subak stage.
We still remember what he told us once, “With my own group I just love to take standards as the template and then go on with our creativity in playing.” So when he plays, you might know the song yet he can always put his own spices on it and make it like his own. Another clean, sharp, effortless performance scored by him and the band.
In the meantime, from the distance we could hear a fast bebop number and a Coltrane-ish sax solo. Came from the biggest stage, th Giri Stage, it was Ben van den Dungen who took his turn. A little bit about him, Ben got his cum laude at The Royal Academy of Music in the Hague for saxophone, and he started his career in mid 80’s and has been involved in many projects of his own. For this festival, he brings his trusted musicians which really blew our mind with their tight, clean, precise, as if they have been playing together for life. After the show, Ben told us about how he sees his music. He sees his music very seriously, and he does not want the music he composed ended like an ordinary jamming concept. Meaning, solo run here, improvise there, and so on. As we could hear during his performance, the song were neatly formed without having to lose any grip on the element of jazz: improvisation and flavor. As bopping as it sounded, the modern touch could be felt which differentiate him from those saxophone colossus in the golden era, even though we believe he could be as one of them. The band sounded so clear as a recording, but visually stunning and tasty. Let’s not forget that he came here just in less than a month after his Northsea Jazz Festival gig. A great catch for sure. If you somehow missed his act, he will appear again on day 2. That’s your last ticket to see his participation this year.
Deborah Carter got us all awed at Padi Stage! Deborah is a perfect example of a jazz dame.
If you want to know more unique fact about this jazz lady, she was born in USA but grew up in Hawaii and Japan. She has performed everywhere around the world from jazz festivals, clubs, seminars even television and radio show with variety of formats from solo, trio to even large orchestra. You need masterclass? Sure, she’d always love to give one. Just like Ben, she’s been in North Sea Jazz Festival as well.
She got a piano lady who plays a great role to this festival (she is the Vice chairman and Marketing Communication of UVJF) named Astrid Sulaiman, Helmy Agustrian on bass, and Pierre Giorgio on drums backing her up. They were playing from Fat Domino’s rock n’ roll song “I’m Walking”, Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie”, to The Beatles’ “Something” which was included in her The Beatles tribute album. Her band complimented her singing nicely, and she got us all grooved and swung. Old soul yet somehow fresh, the thing that you can expect to see from a modern day jazz dame.
One experienced jazz bassist took position on Subak Stage as the final performer. It was none other than Eko Soemarsono with his own project. He’s well known as a fusion musician that always love to spread his wings wide by often including ethnic/world music into his show, and we also notice him sessioning in more than few albums including Yuri Mahatma’s and Riwin’s. Playing as the member of bands and sessionists are just one of the possibilities, because here he brought his own project that’s still involving mystical ethnic music deeply. The show was intimate but ultimately amusing and audience-friendly. People were also seen dancing to his last song about harvesting sugar cane which he got inspiration from and an encore called “Hide and Seek”. What a way to close the Subak Stage in Day 1.
Closing the Giri Stage, The GAPP Project ended the night with a BANG! The Gapp Project is a fusion band from Sydney and features some of Sydney’s finest musicians: Nick Fowler (keys, synth), Christian Young (bass), Dale Barlow (sax), newest member Tim Lockwood (guitar), and Indonesia’s very own Deva Permana on drums and percussion. Deva already played with Balawan and Ito Kurdi as Balawan BID Trio earlier, but here he plays with his regular team mates for over 10 years.
Their instrumentation ranges from classic jazz fusion to modern jazz, rhythmically and harmonically complex but fun to watch and very inspiring for musicians and jazz enthusiasts. This is one energetic band and they widen their music with the use of brass sounds and synth, and how inspiring it is to see that there’s Indonesian proud son inside it. A vicious yet pleasuring show that was perfect to seal the first day up.
What a day! See you tomorrow, Ubud Village Jazz Festival!
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