Dwiki Dharmawan - Rumah Batu

Label: MoonJune Records, 2018

Personnel - Dwiki Dharmawan: acoustic piano; Nguyen Lê: guitar; Carles Benavent: bass guitar; Aaron Stavi: upright bass; Asaf Sirkis: drums + guests.

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Indonesian keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan teams up with the great French guitarist of Vietnamese descent, Nguyen Lê (Paolo Fresu, Uri Caine) in Rumah Batu, his sixth record for the eclectic MoonJune Records. Maintaining his world fusion style vividly alive, the pianist summons the Spanish flamenco bass guitarist Carles Benavent as well as his regular foundation builders, double bassist Aaron Stavi and drummer Asaf Sirkis. Throughout the program, which features six Dharmawan originals and two traditional Indonesian compositions, there are several contributions of guest musicians whose individual expressiveness gives a distinctive touch to each tune.

The premise of “Rintak Rebana” pictures peaceful landscapes, sharply designed by the harmonious coalition formed by the rhythm section and Sa’at Syah’s suling flute. Meanwhile, the tune evolves into a progressive world jazz covered with traditional melodies and impassioned rhythmic textures brought to life by the percussionists Ade Rudiana, Teuku Hariansya, and Indra Maulana Keubitbit. Then the band departs to a rocking harmonic convergence that sustains Lê’s high-powered improv. The bandleader is also exemplary in his intricate discourse, fluently voiced with multiple shifting patterns, astounding swirls, and a playful yet solid sense of rhythm.

His conspicuous playfulness comes also attached to the lullaby-ish melody of “Paris Barantai”, which later falls into rich, empyreal chord progressions. Pianist and guitarist excel once again in their respective solos, while Benavent operates under a synth effect with wha-wha pungency in his individual explorations. The sinuous voice of Syah fits hand in glove.

Ethnic diversification allied with an adequate flexibility is widely sensed on the two-part “Rumah Batu Suite”. In the first part, after an uncluttered intro, the band lands on an Afro folk-rock runway, adding a dash of funk as they echo Brazilian masters Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil. The part two, credited to the collective, sets the musicians free to extemporize ideas within a busy avant-jazz romp. The musical narrative morphs into a crossroad where moods juxtapose with a light, Latin-flavored pulse appended.

The uptempo “Samarkand” guarantees a 6/8 vibe for the improvisers. Benavent opens the ad-libbing section, after which Dharmawan and Lê exchange groups of eight and four bars of responsive soloing.

Blending raw traditional elements with feisty contemporary spins, Rumah Batu bridges worlds and cultures. Even though some passages may sometimes feel a bit drawn-out, there’s a palpable energy in the group's dedicated interplay.

         Grade  B-

        Grade B-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Rink Rebana ► 06 - Rumah Batu Suite, Part 2: Perjalanan ► 07 - Samarkand