Over the years, Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana has grown incredibly as a musician and has become one of the “new” guitarists that fuse jazz rock with traditional elements and progressive rock parts. The recognition he is getting certainly pays off, over the years, the guest musicians have become world famous names and are at the top of their genres. 2019's album; Mahandini is no exception, this time the modest guitarist is accompanied by keyboard player Jordan Rudess, who does not need any introduction. Drummer on the album is Marco Minnemann; another name that speaks for itself. On bass we find another rising star; Indian Mohini Dey. Mohini is a frequently requested studio musician in the jazz rock scene and can be heard on the last Steve Vai album.
The album starts with a vocal track; Crowded. A rock song that sees the guesting of former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante as lead vocalist. The result is a thorough rock song that has imbedded the progressive jazz elements. Rudess shines with a modest solo, but mostly the musicians play in favor of the song, without the need to show their ability to play the quirkiest stuff there is. Personally, I think John Frusciante is more of a guitarist than he is a vocalist, but after several listens, I am totally convinced and think his voice perfectly suits the song. Queen Kanya is a wonderful composition, where Dewa shines. He has the ability to combine jazzy progressive elements with delicate Vai type soloing, which perfectly fits with the piano solo in the song. During the second half of the song both Marco Minnemann and Mohini Dey challenge each other in a very inspired battle of drums and konnakol. One of the charms of Dewa Budjana's music is the way he combines the songs. Hyang Giri is an inspired combination of traditional vocals, courtesy of Soimah Pancawati, jazz and progressive rock elements. This combination works perfect, great guitar parts, fine bass lines and adventurous drums lay down the base for another signature Rudess piano part. Towards the end, Dey gets to shine with a solo, battling with Dewa's guitar and Minnemann's drumming. During the smoother Jung Oman, both piano and guitar are dominating during the first part, but in the end, this is the track that highlights Dewa's playing in all its diversity. The following ILW is a powerful fusion composition that guests Mike Stern as a second guitar player. During this one both guitarists are challenging each other to the max. ILW is an obligated track for die-hard fusion fanatics. During the title track Mahandini, we are treated again by a fine combination of all the elements that define Dewa's sound. The several solo spots are very interesting, but for me the interaction and musical feeling makes this one worthwhile listening to over and over again. The album closes with another collaboration with John Frusciante, this time an element of jazz is added to the rock of the first track, making this an accessible song to listen to, a song that could appeal to a larger crowd. Zone finishes the circle that started with the same guest musician in a very beautiful way.
Like I wrote earlier, Dewa Budjana has grown as a musician and by entering new musical elements; I think his name will keep on growing famous. Mahandini turns out to be an album with many faces and could appeal to either the jazz and fusion aficionado as well as to the progressive rock fan. The two vocal tracks with Frusciante could, or should open doors to the regular rock and even pop scene. Overall a wonderful album.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Dave Smith)
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