For the fourth time in a row we come to witness the big jazz fest in Bali, the Ubud Village Jazz Festival. It’s always special for us, because then we can enjoy the swingin’ and boppin’ atmosphere in a tranquil, peaceful side of Bali under a cool weather which creates totally different vibe we don’t find elsewhere. Other than that, this event is unique because of some reasons.
First, it’s a local community-based yet has been built as an international jazz festival. This fest now stands as a ‘must-see’ new attraction of Bali’s tourism agenda. But what’s really interesting is that the co-founder and active musician Yuri Mahatma manages to display jazz in a different way. Year after year he carefully selects, invites and introduces great talents from Bali, the capital and some other cities including our hometown Bandung, also from various different parts of the hemisphere. We have heard some of the names, there are new names too for us. But we know that whoever he invites is worth to check because usually they have more than just good skill or voice.
This Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2017 once again presents great artists from our own nation and no less than 6 other countries in the world. Separated in three different stages, this festival serves party for 2 days, around 8 hours each day. As usual, this festival is not the one that would make you tired running far to reach the stage. You can just enjoy all shows pleasantly thanks to the good, on time schedule and the easy access to all three stages. What’s also cool is that the venue, ARMA Museum can still offer the chance to feel the local wisdom through the sophisticated, artistic lay out design combines with the nature beauty. You can see people lying or sitting on the pillows in front of one stage, sitting nicely in others, or even, enjoying food and beverages the fest offers while tasting the sweet sound of jazz brought by selected performers. So, an international jazz festival served homey presenting some of the skillful players with their own signatures over variety of styles who have dedicated their life to this music, that’s how Ubud Village Jazz Festival is.
The festival’s international scale roared loud even before it was officially opened. Julian Banks, a saxophonist from the land down under (Australia) already had his moment on Padi stage in the afternoon. This man is more than just a good player. He performs regularly with groups around his hometown Melbourne but also leads his own project consisting stellar musicians from Indonesia and Australia resulting a new album titled “Agung” (in English: Grant), recorded at the co-founder of this fest’s studio, the Antida Studios in Denpasar during his 2016 tour to Indonesia. This album is inspired by a photo taken when approaching the crater rim of Gunung Agung, the 3000 m high volcano mountain in Bali which they climbed. In this album Julian ‘Jules’ Banks brought his buddies James Hauptmann (drum/percussion), James Gilligan (bass/pedal steel guitar) and Cepi Kusmiadi, a double headed Sundanese kendang and percussion player.
Julian Banks continued what he left from the previous edition, presenting his admiration for both modern jazz and traditional Indonesian ethnic music. In his hands, both elements are blended perfectly as one. Julian is a remarkable saxophonist with unique musical soul. He can craft modern jazz over Indonesian ethnic music, showing how he values both modern and traditional music equally inside him. Always love his music and show.
There will be plenty of album launching shows that he will do after this, you can go to his website http://julianbanksmusic.com and find the schedule. We wish him good luck for the new “Agung” album, and certainly, we hope to see him again next year.
On the other stage, the most demanded saxophonist in Bali, Pramono Abdi Pamungkas delivered funky sax bites. We have seen him around this event supporting the featured stars (including with Koko Harsoe in 2015), but this year he moves further by having his own show.
Performing with guitarist Jonathan Dangawa, pianist Kevin Suwandhi, bassist Helmi Agustrian and nomadic trumpeter who has regular performances across Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Eamon Dilworth.
How interesting it is to see this year’s edition opened up with two sax-driven shows led by remarkable players from different nationalities. After enjoying his participation as a sideman in previous edition, this time we see that he can take the role as the band leader successfully.
Back to Padi stage, we found a unique show. It was the ‘electrocoustic’ duo endorsed by the Austrian embassy, b.good vogel. Consisting of Marc Vogel (saxes, keys, voice, realtime audio manipulation) and Lukas Schiemer aka Barry Good (drums/sampling pad), this duo combines contemporary acoustic jazz with splashes of electronic elements and grooves. The way they provide music is unorthodox, is almost like doing a fine art over the musical pallette. Experimentative, narrative and artistic.
So, mainly they use only minimalist acoustic setup involving merely two main instruments, yet with their way of playing they open up a whole new terrain. Synths, voice samples and loops that the technology is now able to bring via master keyboard, sample pad and computer make them able to bring something somewhat unique, amazingly without loosing the charm and authenticity of how a live performance should be.
In each songs they shared conversations to the audience through rhytmic experimental jazz. That including our favorite one from their collection, “Hipocrisy”. In the middle of their performance, Barry Good told everyone that the background sound he captured while playing, which was the sound of frogs from the paddyfield right beside his stage actually gave him something. “It creates the real peace which suits our concept, you don’t have this in Austria” he said laughing.
From these Austrian guys we got the impression that jazz actually can be used in open up new territories that’s probably still unexplored. There are still many ways to play instruments to create new musical invention, and this gentlemen of b.good vogel did it amazingly.
Meanwhile, coming from the land down under Australia, Emily & Siwei took their flight on the green, relaxing Subak stage. Emily Wilson is a jazz singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist passionate in the art of improvisation as a part of her love to jazz. As for Siwei, she is a pianist with open mindset to many forms of music including jazz as her current developmental focus. In bands she performs as a pianist, harpist and also vocalist. What’s unique is that Siwei also has her own original compositions which has spoken lyrics and free improvisations. Both of these ladies are currently studying the Bachelor of Music at the Victorian College of Arts, Australia.
At this festival, Wilson (voice) and Siwei (piano) joined forces together pleasuring us with famous standards, contemporary tunes and original compositions. Two Indonesian musicians were helping them: Jonathan Dangawa (drum) and Dimas (bass).
Deeply clinging to the freedom of playing jazz, these ladies flew freely like birds on the clear blue sky. Look at how they hooked the audience with an interesting version of “Tenderly” and then also “Darn that Dream” among other songs. Emily clearly has a lovely singing voice with strong jazz vibe. She also has a strong charisma when standing on stage. Siwei is a pianist who can paint a perfect layer for the singer, but when she has his moment, she knows how to shine in an exact portion. As a team they are really fine.
Through this event we have seen many great artists from Australia with their own style and creativity. Among cool lineups from Oz, we got Emily and Siwei pouring lovely jazz in early hours of day 1.
The official opening ceremony took place at the main stage, Giri. Right after that, Aussie Steve Barry launched his act. Thanks to the Australian Embassy, this year the Ubud Village Jazz Festival could have Steve Barry and the group for a tour to Bali. He is a pianist, organist, composer and improviser based in Sydney and a current PhD candidate in composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This man won the 2013 Bell Award for Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year and became the runner-up of the 2013 National Jazz Awards. He has released 3 albums (one is a collaboration with Japan Orbiturtle’s “Sakura”).
Steve Barry played in quartet formation with Nischal Manjunath (sax), Dave Goodman (drums) and Max Farrell (bass). They swung the audience artistically, building each song and embrace each momentum like a team of architects. Barry even played a new song that’s still untitled. “If you have any idea of what the title should be, feel free to message me in facebook. The winner will get a free CD”, he said on stage.
A cool, melodic adventurous music with sharp rhythm was captured from his show. Like an architect he builds each songs by embracing every momentum found in it. If that sounds scientific, let us say that he does it with heart. A very nice treat which reflects the true soul of this festival.
Up to this point, we’re still half way through the first day. On Padi stage we found a big band coming all the way from Germany, the Glen Buschmann Jazz Academy (Glen Buschmann Jazzakademie) Big Band. The musicians came from Dortmund and named after the legendary clarinetist/ saxophonist Glen Buschmann. This big band was empowered by the jazz lady Dian Pratiwi and saxophonist Uwe Plath who certainly are no stranger to this event, standing as the conductor of this big band.
The roaring sound of the glorious 20’s era blasted high from them. It was a huge party where the instrumental songs and the powerhouse vocal of Dian Pratiwi wowed the audience right from the start. Plenty of songs, beautiful arrangements and sharp execution made everything perfect. Some audience on the right side of the stage even danced throughout this show. What’s cool is that Dian wasn’t the only singer, because this big band also featured a beautiful songstress Sithara Schimaniak and pianist Astrid Sulaiman.
The sound of a big band is always fascinating to hear. It doesn’t just majestic and grand, it also creates a reflection to the golden swing era back in 30’s and 40’s. It was mostly presented in big ballroom accompanying couples dancing back then, but the music actually is perfect to grace a jazz festival in modern days. The Glen Buschmann Jazzakademie Big Band significantly added a strong swing color to this festival. Tomorrow they will have their second show, can’t wait to have all the fun again.
Sitting behind the drum on Subak Street was a proud Bali son, a vertile drummer who now stands as one of the best this nation has, Sandy Winarta. He graduated from Australian Institute of Music in Sydney and quickly gained his place among big cats right after he came home. Not long ago he continued his study further in New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan with a scolarship. There he got the chance to play with many giants. And now, he’s back to Indonesia, mostly based in Bali and ready to make more breakthroughs.
Like last year Sandy Winarta chose to go with trio. Joining him were Indra Gupta (bass), Kevin Suwandhi (piano) and his buddy came all the way from New York, Jorge Roldan. This formation reminded us of his show right here two years ago, only this time they took most of the songs from Sandy Winarta’s new album “Chronicles” which was released just a couple of weeks ago.
Sandy Winarta went speeding like a bullet from the start. He demonstrated his musical perception of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning” in such speed exceeding normal. This song can be found in the new album. Then “Train Song” took us into even more thrilling ride. “A Ziv’s Thing” still kept everyone in the blazing mood and that stayed all the way. “Jorge isn’t feel very well right now, but still he played crazy sax”, said Sandy. Standout performance of Indra Gupta too, which in a way reminds us of the amazing Charles Mingus’ bass walking. And Kevin is just getting better and better on the piano. Yes, this team nailed it, letting everyone who watched them feel the historical events of Sandy’s illustrious career and life in a fastlane.
As Sandy is just releasing his album, we wish him the best with it. There are not many jazz albums where a drummer takes the lead, so Sandy Winarta’s album will definitely contribute big deal to our jazz scene.
Not long after Sandy Winarta ruled the Subak stage, a genius young man from Bandung made his debut big in this festival, Tesla Manaf. We knew him right from the day he started his career as a duo with keyboardist Bayu back then in 2008, even got an interview with them back then: http://jazzuality.com/interview/exclusive-interview-with-bayu-tesla/. It was when he just decided to establish the duo around 3-4 months earlier, but looking at his talent, we knew it’s just a matter of time for him to reach his dream.
When Bayu left the music scene, Tesla kept pushing on with everything he got, from Ivan & Tesla, Grace & Tesla and a trio named G.E.T . Then he found his first big breakthrough when he brilliantly fused his progressive jazz with a Balinese gamelan ensemble, plus a Barong dancer and called it Tesla Manaf ft Mahagotra Ganesha. This album was produced and sold independently and got amazing response from the jazz fans. Not only the album got sold out, he caught the attention of Leonardo Pavkovic of USA-based label MoonJune Records who then signed him and released his album internationally. His self-titled album which according to him was built upon progressive acoustic experimental music surprised the world. He got many praises from critics all over the world which established him as a world class act.
Then, he locked up with a girl who shares many things in common with him. Both of them are the genius people that see the world in different perspective, both of them love to tell stories in symbolic way using different but related mediums: film and music. This unique girl is Gracia Tobing, a girl possesses with so many gifts in art. We have mentioned one: she is a film maker. But she is also talented in writings, poems, performance, costume, beauty, movement, music, sound and experimentation.
However, for tonight Tesla performed solo. But wait, even when he played alone, that doesn’t mean that he has no collaboration. This time he collaborates with Yoka Sara, the maestro of modern art and architect from Bali that wants to create the visual and lightings concept artisticly for his performance.
Looking at his background, the way he sees everything around them and how he loves to tell stories using totally different perspective and point of view, placing art on top, this performance appears haunting and chilling. Tesla unlocks an artistic, ‘surrealistic’ world that’s never been opened before. It’s hypnotizing.
Back to Subak stage, the last show belong to young man with groovy, boppin’, tasty sax lines, Ricad Hutapea. Not many probably know that he began with piano but then found his heart in saxophone and locked with it ever since. He has played together with several top musicians as Indra Lesmana, Tohpati, Indro Hardjodikoro, Yance Manusama, Monita Tahalea, DJ Andezzz with whom he produced two singles, and just a couple of months ago he got a showcase with live recording together with Jody Espina, world-renowned jazz saxophonist also the founder, president and designer of JodyJazz Saxophone and Clarinet Mouthpieces. He has so far released one album “Jalan Pertama” consisting of mostly his own compositions and just a couple of weeks ago helped her wife Renata Tobing launching her debut single, “Untuk Sahabat”, a song featuring Tohpati which was written and composed by Ricad.
Pianist Kevin Suwandhi and drummer Grady Boanerges were with him. A classic jazz standard “All The Things You Are” was first, followed with Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”. Then Renata got her chance to entertain the audience with her heart-warming voice. Interestingly, she sang a cover of Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” rearranged fully in jazz. In the end, she sang her debut single we have mentioned above.
This man can funk anyone up mercilessly with his sax attack, but can be deeply seductive when playing sweet romantic tunes. For us, he is one of the most interesting and fast-progressing jazz musicians today coming from the new generation that we love to keep our eyes on. Just like Tesla, this man is still young and have a bright future ahead. He surely warmed us under a cool Ubud weather.
The last performance that sealed the Giri stage as well as the day 1 of the UVJF was German trumpeter Benny Brown. Born in Münster, Germany 34 years ago, Benny already started playing in the German Air-Force Band just 4 years after learning from Achim Böder. He joined other jazz orchestras and enhanced his skill by having more mentors. Today he’s keeping himself busy as a member of Ed Partyka Jazz Orchestra, Moritz Sembritzki Band, Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble, International Big Band, Matthias Schriefl Big Band and the European Movement Jazz Orchestra other than his own band and actively being a sessionist. He has played with many big cats and legends, including Ack van Rooyen, Nils Landgren and Peter Herbolzheimer and Till Brönner.
Benny appeared in large formation, featuring musicians who have been supporting this event for years including saxophonist Uwe Plath, vocalist Dian Pratiwi, pianist Gregory Gaynair and drummer Rolf Behet and young bassist born in 1986, Reza Askari.
This final band brought easy listening jazz that should be easy to love by even the most common listeners, amazingly without losing the technique and quality of a great jazz band. “The Island” and Michael Franks’ “Monkey See Monkey Do” served very well as the last drop, but due to the request of the audience, they gave one last song which served a big party. The song is Dian Pratiwi’s favorite: Tania Maria’s “Come With Me”, played much faster as a climax. Many people were dancing in front of the stage creating one super cool view. That marked a perfect finale for Day 1.
There will be many more interesting performances to highlight on the Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2017 Day 2. For you who can’t come and feel the amazing jazzmosphere created by this event, we will keep you updated in the next article. Stay tuned for our upcoming coverage!
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