For decades Bali has been one of the most favorite tourist destinations in the world. Why not? Bali has everything to suit the criteria. Wonderful beaches, ocean breeze, breathtaking scenery, ancient temples, the ceremonies and of course variety of arts found nowhere else, ranging from traditional dance, sculpture, painting, metalworking and yes, music. The traditional gamelan has its own mystical spirit which often gives the best moment of relaxation in sync with the island’s serenity and lushes environment. If you go some kilometers up, away from the party and rave beach life, you will find quite different atmosphere of Bali. Tranquil rice paddies, cool mountain weather are going to greet you warmly right away. And on this exact spot, Bali adds another reason for everyone to come.
There are so many wonderful things to be found in Bali, you may have your own choice. But now you should add jazz as the main attraction. Thanks to Yuri Mahatma (guitarist, composer, teacher and founder of Underground Jazz Movement) and Anom Darsana (director and owner of Antida Music Productions), Bali now has its own annual international jazz festival: Ubud Village Jazz Festival. This year the festival has entered its 4th consecutive year with shining world-class lineup! There are legends and highly experienced musicians, local heroes and fellows from the capital and other cities all the way to student groups, all connected to make this edition stands differently. And it involved no less than 8 countries. The language is different from one to another, but here they are using the universal language we all can understand and love, and that is Jazz.
Michael Setiawan kicked off the 1st Day of Ubud Jazz Festival 2016. This magic kid isn’t a stranger to this festival since he was already played a couple of times with his band, Openmind Project. The different is, this time he is playing with his own band called Michael Setiawan Quintet. Year after year we witness his rapid progress, and this year seems to be the best performance of Michael we have ever seen. Michael got the chance to introduce his original compositions to us. Among the team we found trumpeter Indra Dauna who soon would play again with his father and brother. Very nice opening. All young, all talented. Stunning pure jazz-tacy was really cool as the opening. They really nailed it.
Soon after the main stage got a rockin’ treatment courtesy of Yamaha Music Project. This is a special presentation consisting of Yamaha Artists: Sadrach Lukas (keys), Ronald Steven (bass), Denny Chasmala (guitar), Jonas Wang (drum), Is, the vocalist of Payung Teduh and horn section featuring players from Salamander Big Band. They served rock with jazz approach over Radiohead songs including “No Surprises”, “Paranoid Android” and their biggest hit “High and Dry”.
After that, it’s time for us to check out the Padi stage again to see father-sons connection, The Daunas. Papa Glen Dauna who graduated from Germany is a senior pianist/composer who plays for Twilite Orchestra besides playing in various projects including his own. He has such illustrious career from playing in prestigious jazz festivals and playing alongside famous international artsists like Jeff Kashiwa and Salena Jones. Two of his sons are following his footsteps and now become the great jazz musicians. Trumpeter Indra Dauna and the younger Rega Dauna who has been spreading magic with his harmonica for a couple of years. Together as the Daunas, the father-sons have made some interesting projects since around 5 years ago, for example tributing Jimi Hendrix.
Meanwhile on the far-back stage of Subak, Joyfe Jazz Quintet represented the Bali local talent gave a relaxing swing sensation. This band was founded in 2014 by vocalist Penina Naomi and pianist Ezra Arman. The band features fellow musicians including Indra Gupta (contrabass), Icang Rahimy (guitar) and Iman Najib (drums). Having them in the cozy, relaxing part of the venue was perfect. We felt at ease, sweet and romantic, jazz way.
The future of jazz is secure with a stunning young Polish jazz pianist and composer: Piotr Orzechowski. This young man is still 25 years old, but he has been showing brilliant jazz artist since his album debut 4 years ago. Winning and becoming the finalist of many competitions in Europe is just one of the great things. He is highly creative in concepting his music as shown throughout his albums, including a fine interpretation of Bach’s classical repertoires, unique Avant Garde-ish experiment and the genius interpretation of Polish dance called Oberek’s characteristics, served in 15 studies (three for each thematic issues). Piotr made his first appearance at the Ubud Village Jazz Festival in the format of quartet called High Definition Quartet. As his stage nickname Pianohooligan says, this man spread chaos on the piano, producing ‘violent’ harmony and rhythm. Free jazz was manic and breathtaking. Simply captivating show.
On Padi we got 5 Bali-based Japanese musicians who brought us back to feel the spirit of beautiful nature. They are called Angin Asia (Winds of Asia), comprises of Tomoca, Yuko shirota, Atsuko kawahara, Kenji matsyura and Chizuko koizumi. Listening to their music, we feel like riding the wind passing through Aisa’s denseforest, bambo grove, waterfall and beyond. The show even included a Japanese lady doing the Balinese dancing. The wonderful green scenery of Arma Ubud became the perfect playground for this band. If usually new age music is used to portrait the sound of nature, Angin Asia proved that jazz works very, very well too. Unique.
On Subak we got a relaxing performance that made us felt as if we were inside a cozy jazz club, courtesy of Mia Samira. She is a soulful lady with swing printed all over her 5-star voice. Her vocal quality reminds us of classic jazz singers from the golden age of jazz. Born in Jakarta, she began her career early right after her teenage years by performing at some of the best venues in Asia. She landed in Java Jazz Festival in 2006 and 2007, then moved to Hong Kong. Her debut album came in 2010 titled “All I Know”.
Tonight she took us to the exotic Brazilian mood. Joining her were Nita Aartsen (piano), Indra Gupta (contrabass), Koko Harsoe (guitar) and Warman Sanjaya (drums). With this kind of vocal quality and performance, no wonder Mia has big success in pursuing her international career. Currently she is a regular on jazz club circuit around Asia, it was a good chance for us to be able to catch her performance in this festival in Bali.
Then it was time for us to check out the East-West European Jazz Ensemble feat Gregory Gaynair. The East-West European Jazz Ensemble carries a unique, strong concept in crafting their music. As for tonight, they took us into smooth, joyful sailing to the swingin’ sea, with waves ranging from Samba to Salsa. All blended seamlessly.
This time they collaborated with skillful German jazz pianist Gregory Gaynair who inherits the afro-cuban touch inside his play from his father, saxophonist Wilton Gaynair as well as blues. Then there were the long time music partner Uwe Plath and Dian Pratiwi. They boosted up the energy with “After the Carnival”, followed by “Once I Loved”, “Don’t You Worry Bout the Thing”. Dian was as usual attractive and connected with the audience. The combination of unique ensemble and delightful finger-dancing from multi-dimensional pianist resulting one lovely session.
The proud son of Bali Sandy Winarta is a regular in this fest. And that’s no wonder, since this young man is a versatile drummer that makes the drum beats sound so alive. If last year he brought his buddy from New York named Jorge Roldan, this time he performed alongside his team mates including Indra Gupta on bass. Tonight he released madness, making his drum speaks loud. He could go ferocious, he could seduce the audience with tender beat. Sandy is still in mid 30s, but he should be considered as the senior due to the illustrious career and experience that he has gained since a very young age. Once again he spread pure extacy where the beauty of jazz drumming shone in every corner.
Back to the intimate Subak stage we got a present that feels like taking us to Andalusia. It’s Ian Scionti Trio. As the name stated, this trio is led by Ian Scionti, a Flamenco fingerstyle guitarist in Spain. With this trio which includes compatriotes from Lille, France: Arnaud Clerc and also from Spain: Javier Delgado, Scionti serves the sensuous Nuevo Flamenco in conjuction with hard bop and other forms of jazz. It’s traditional but modern, it’s classic but trendy. It’s really interesting to listen to his perspective of music, naturally unique and warm.
The last show featured a great Big Band from Bandung, the Salamander Big Band. Formed and conducted by Devy Ferdianto, this Big Band begun its journey exactly a decade ago. This big band uses the classic formation from the golden era like Count Basie’s and the likes. For 12 years they have collaborated with many big stars including Benny Likumahuwa, Bertha, Gilang Ramadhan, Sam Bimbo, Margie Segers, Bob Tutupoly, Frank Reinshagen, Dieter Mack, Thorsten Wollmann and Ack van Rooyen. What’s important to know is that this big band has many great players inside. Almost half of them have been successfully pursuing their career too either as soloist, band leader or sessionist. They play regular once or twice a year for their anniversary and mid year besides appearing in many big festivals like Java Jazz Festival, JakJazz and so on. This year they added Ubud Village Jazz Festival in their portfolio.
They roared wild as if we were in the beautiful big ballroom in the 20’s that instantly captured the attention of everyone near or far. They appeared in complete team, including the vocal lines Gail Satiawaki which reminds us of the young Tony Bennett , the Indonesian Diane Schuur, Nenden Syintawati and the vocal group, Salamander Voices. Well known songs for jazz lovers like “You Go to My Head” , “L-O-V-E”, “Comes Love”, “Route 66″, Have You Met Miss Jones” and “Sir Duke” performed by 5 star quality big band, what’s not to love about it.
Devy Ferdianto led Salamander Big Band to give one beautiful ending for Day 1. We have been supporting them for many, many years. We know their world-class quality and proud that they made it this year into this festival. Speaking of ending the day, it was grand!
Eleven shows involving the national musicians, the internationals and local heroes were served chilled on day 1. Our energy feels drained covering the excitement of first day, but we are excited to see what to come on the 2nd day of Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2016. There will be many, many more amazing jazz wizards waiting to put their spell on you. If you missed the Friday show, you still have one day left to be a part of the festival. For those who are not in Bali, don’t worry because we are going to tell you the highlight. Stay tuned for our 2nd day report, and for you who are going to be there, see you!
See more pictures: