5 STAR REVIEW IN DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE
(ONE OF THE TOP JAZZ ALBUMS IN 2016)
Indonesian keyboard star Dwiki Dharmawan returns following his 2015 MoonJune Records debut, the more fusion-heavy So Far, So Close, with the even more ambitious Pasar Klewer. Recorded at London, England's EastCote Studio in June 2015, this vibrant, acoustic piano-driven two-CD set features the cream of Britain's younger expat crop, blending with Indonesian musicians to create a passionate, seamless cultural cross-pollination.
Bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer/percussionist Asaf Sirkis comprise Dharmawan's core trio. These two increasingly renowned musicians have spent considerable time together in Sirkis' trio with guitarist Tassos Spiliotopolos, as well as in projects with guitarist Mark Wingfield and critically acclaimed reed multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon, two other artists making significant contributions to Pasar Klewer. All four musicians share a collective résumé that, in addition to their own projects also includes work with Swiss guitarist Nicolas Meier (another important voice on Pasar Klewer), saxophonist Tim Garland, singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt, ex-Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. UK-based Gamelan musical virtuoso, Aris Daryono, also make significant contributions to several tracks, while Italian singer Boris Savoldelli guests on two tunes (including a reinvention of Wyatt's "Forest"), and the Jess Jegog Gamelan Orchestra and singer Peni Candrarini bring cultural verisimilitude to Dharmawan's radical rearrangement of the traditional "Lir Ilir."
Pavkovic describes keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan as "one of Indonesia's most prominent musicians: a cultural icon in his homeland and accomplished pianist, keyboardist, composer, arranger, performer and peace activist. A true cultural activist and ambassador of his beloved country, Dwiki has forged a very successful thirty-plus year career, performing in over sixty countries with solo and collective projects."
So Far, So Close (2015) was Dharmawan's pan-cultural, fusion powerhouse MoonJune debut, but for his second MoonJune effort, Dharmawan wanted to try something different. "Indonesia is the place of 'ultimate diversity,'" the pianist says. "Here, the urban cultures accelerate the 'acculturation' process, which generates changes in cultural patterns and creates new forms of musical expression. Pasar Klewer is the answer to my search for 'the difference,' and also a valuable answer to our modern crises and urban uprooting. The album's distinctive sound originates from an ancient Gamelan tonal system called Salendro, known in the Karawitan traditional music of the Sundanese, Javanese and Balinese. Based on the Gamelan tonal system, I also adapted, as my inspiration, other musical elements from all over the Indonesian archipelago, as well as the western diatonic system."
Pasar Klewar's exhilarating opening title track, indeed, possesses a microtonal-informed melody drawn unmistakably from Dharmawan's cultural roots; but its modal nature also affords the pianist and his band mates the freedom to explore everything from Metheny-esque landscapes (though Wingfield's heavily overdriven electric guitar provides a completely non-Metheny vibe during his light-speed solo) to a mid-song shift in mood, where Stavi and Sirkis drive Dharmawan's post-Coltrane, Tyner-via-Beirach-through-Corea exploration of spiritual freedom with similar passion and fire.
Daryono takes an impressive vocal/rebab (three-stringed violin) solo before some empathic three-way interplay amongst the core trio leads to a thoroughly musical drum solo reaching deep into the heart of the song before Stavi and Dharmawan re-enter, bringing this twelve-minute epic to a finish with another brilliant piano solo of grand proportions. Cross-pollinated with Wingfield's additional fiery interaction, the music builds to such a climactic peak that, when it suddenly comes to a stop, the band members shouting "Yeah!!" is left to conclude the track, reflecting the energy clearly felt in the studio.
Its overall freedom may come as a surprise to fans of the more easily digestible So Far, So Close...though that's not to suggest Pasar Klewar is lacking in beauty, flat-out lyricism or eminent appeal. "Interaction with each other is very important, as each musician contributes an energy that then coalesces into an explosion of energy together," enthuses Dharmawan. "It is not always easy for me to achieve my musical journey's goal, but I always enjoy the process of the search. So Far, So Close represented my musical passion as a young, growing musician; now I feel more mature in exploring my musical inspirations...and I think that this is will be never-ending journey."
If So Far, So Close and even more ambitious Pasar Klewar are any indication, then this is very good news for those fortunate enough to be hearing this remarkable Indonesian artist and a group that may have come together for the very first time in the studio to play Dharmawan's music, but came ready-made with the intrinsic chemistry so important to music this intuitive/interpretive. If there's any justice in the world, the name Dwiki Dharmawan will soon be on the lips of jazz fans around the world and Pasar Klewar the album that turned this Indonesian star into an internationally renowned jazz figure.
Recorded in London, June 9 & 10, 2015, at EastCote Studio by Phil Bagenal.
Boris Savoldelli's vocal parts recorded at BSS home studio in Pisogne, Italy, August 30, 2015.
Female vocals and gamelan orchestra pre-recorded in Jakarta in May 2015.
Balinese frogs recorded live in Ubud, Bali, in August 2015.
Mixed and mastered by Mark Wingfield at Heron Island Studio, Cambridgeshire, England in October 2015 and April 2016.
Produced by Leonardo Pavkovic and Dwiki Dharmawan.
Executive producers Dwiki Dharmawan for Farabi Music and Leonardo Pavkovic for MoonJune Music.