When you like progressive music, this should mean you are open to many different musical styles and adventures. For the die-hard progressive rock fans, that only stick to the old-school seventies progressive rock music and claim “this is progressive rock”, here is some high-quality jazz rock for you. Since the previous album of Dewa Budjana I reviewed was Dawai In Paradise (2013, see review) and held music that was recorded over a number of years, our Indonesian guitar maestro crossed the great ocean and recorded two albums in the US.
The 2013 release Joged Kahyangan, focuses on a more smooth, jazz rock style, in a traditional way and in a setting where the focus is not only on the guitar. Besides Dewa Budjana on guitar, this album sees Larry Goldings on Hammond organ and piano, Bob Mintzer on sax and clarinet, Jimmy Johnson on bass and Peter Erskine on drums as his companions. Quality guaranteed with this very experienced line-up. The compositions were written in a very open way, so when the album was recorded, there was enough room for the musicians to improvise and let their experience come to life in Dewa's music. So, on this classical jazz album, we find some stunning Hammond sounds and solos, as well as numerous sax parts and solos. Basically, Dewa is (being) a band member that allows others to show their talents, but when his guitar moves forward in the mix, you can enjoy a true master of the six string; melodic, playing unusual patterns, sometimes reminiscent of Frank Gambale's style, but never copying it. During the composition As You Leave My Nest, the attention goes to Janis Siegel, who's responsible for the female vocals on the only vocal track on this album. Other strong roles are played by the steady rhythm section, that keeps the composition in time, sometimes playing short solo passages, but mainly responsible for the perfect groove of the songs.
Very different from Joged Kahyangan is the album that was released one year later: Surya Namaskar. This seventh album by Dewa Budjana was basically recorded as a power trio, with bass player Jimmy Johnson, who also played on his previous album, and super drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. On this album the fusion side of Dewa's guitar completely takes over and therefore, this album can be seen as a true guitar album. With the help of Allan Holdsworth, and John McLaughlin veteran Gary Husband on keyboards, Fifty is the only composition with keyboards. The interaction between the keyboard and the guitar is breathtaking and the outcome is just a crazy song. Just listen to the final words of this live, studio recorded song. Dewa Budjana's style is very melodic and soulful and a treat for fans of guitar music in general. More than on the previous album, the rhythm section finds the time to show their talent, Jimmy Johnson's bass perfectly adepts Dewa's style and so, form a great unity. Listening to the drums alone, you will be blown away by another stunning performance of super drummer Colaiuta; one of the best drummers in the genre. The only song that differs is Kalingga, the only indication of Dewa's motherland on the CD. Sundanese harp and violin are used to create the atmosphere of Indonesian music. Absolute highlight for me, is the perfect mix of east and west during the title track Surya Namaskar, where Michal Landau adds his personal style to Dewa''s guitar sounds. I would be pleased if Dewa were to challenge other prominent guitarists to perform with him on an album, for this composition definitely needs an encore.
Dewa Budjana created two very different albums while he was in the States. If your interests lie towards a more traditional jazz style, including keyboards and sax, your pick will be Joged Kahyangan and you will find smooth and relaxed music. The more guitar orientated music lovers will definitely find what they like on Surya Namaskar, Dewa's ultimate guitar album up to now. Adding up the stars, I guess my favorite album is the latter, but in order to create a special, relaxed atmosphere I need to play Jogged Kahyangan, so let's rank both of them in the same way.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Esther Ladiges)
Where to buy?