Keyboard player Dwiki Dharmawan is somehow the godfather of Indonesian jazz rock and fusion. He won his first stripes with the Krakatau Group, which he joined in 1985 at the age of 19 years. This jazz rock group released eight albums between 1987 and 2005, forging a reputation for excellence in Indonesia. This reputation is due to the talent of Dwiki Dharmawan, who has already won the best keyboard player of the year at the Yamaha Light Music Competition in Tokyo in 1985, followed by the Grand Prize at the Asia Song Festival in the Philippines in 2000.
Alongside his participation in Krakatau, Dwiki Dharmawan leads a solo career, materialized by the albums Nuansa (2000) and World Peace Orchestra (2009). In 2015 he returned with So Far So Close, a collection of jazz rock songs among the most authentic of its kind. To do this, Dwiki Dharmawan brings together some of his most faithful comrades. Including Jimmy Haslip (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums), Dewa Budjana (guitar), Tohpati (guitar), Jerry Goodman (violin) and I Nyomhan Winda who operates on traditional Indonesian instruments. The album was recorded in L.A. and mixed by star producer Jeff Lorber, which is mostly know for contemporary and smooth jazz.
Dharmawan presents here a very technical album which will be loved most of all by the lovers of fusion's "golden era". This was the mid 70s through the mid 80s. They will find plenty to keep them enthralled throughout this sizzling session. So Far, So Close features adventurous instrumental compositions, arrangements and performances. Right from the start with the opening piece Arafura, Dwiki kicks ass. Most of all, ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist Jerry Goodman gets you in the right mood with his excellent playing next to the amazing keyboard parts. This up-tempo track is a strong instrumental on which the mix between jazz rock and fusion perfectly works. The pace slows down on the next track. Bromo is a fine atmospheric piece of music with leading roles for the guitar and synthesizer. A possible influence of Patrick Moraz comes to the surface when you hear the fantastic Moog solo done by Dwiki himself. The following two tracks (So Far, So Close and Whale Dance) show somewhat more funky elements, with ethnic influences. The up tempo The Dark Of The Light is next and moves more towards progressive rock territories and doesn't allow you to sit still while listening to this beautiful music. Again it is as if Moraz is touching the keyboards. A kind of improvised piece of music you might label the next song. Jembrana's Fantasy has most of all more jazzy kind of piano parts which at first do not seem to settle in your brain right from the start. Furthermore is it soaked in an exotic musical mélange using instruments from the Indonesian gamelan orchestra. Finally I can tell you that it is the only composition on the album which has the human voice on it. Thank God the album continues with NYC 2050 moving back toward more Western music. The track is a fine up-tempo piece with a lot of fusion influences. The lead guitar sounds excellent next to the fine keyboard parts. Somehow the song reminds me of David Sancious. The last track on the album has the title The Return Of Lamafa. On this rather mellow piece you can can hear a mix of classical music, jazz rock and funk and ends the album in style.
So Far, So Close is an album which proves most of all that fusion, jazz rock and progressive rock from the 70s and 80s is still very much alive! On this album you can hear a fine melting pot of all those styles. By all means, So Far, So Close is a very engaging and essential album for those who like the above mentioned musical styles. Highly recommended to those who love the music of Patrick Moraz, David Sancious, Al Di Meola, Return To Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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