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.


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

David Lopato - Gendhing For a Spirit Rising

Label/Year: Global Coolant, 2017

Lineup – David Lopato: piano, keyboards, vibes, marimba, glockenspiel, Sudanese kendhang; Marty Ehrlich: alto and soprano saxophone; Lucas Pino: soprano saxophone, clarinet; Mark Feldman: violin; Erik Friedlander: cello; Bill Ware: vibraphone; Ratzo Harris: bass; Tom Rainey: drums; Michael Sarin: drums; William Moersch: marimba; I.M. Harjito: Javanese rebab; Anne Stebinger: Javanese kendhang; Marc Perlman: Javanese kendhang; John Hadfield: percussion.


World fusion is in good hands with pianist, composer, and bandleader David Lopato, who hired an eclectic A-list band for his 2-CD set outing, Gendhing For a Spirit Rising. Moving with ease between Javanese gamelan, contemporary jazz, and other South Asian sounds, Lopato’s music benefits with both the experienced and the emerging jazz artists that followed him in this adventure.

Due to the palpitating rhythmic structure and the presence of an Eberton-Friedlander virtual violin, “Landrang” and “Jalan Jiwa” made me recall Billy Bang’s Vietnam Reflections

The folk-steeped “This Life” features saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, who first outlines the free chant-like theme on alto and then improvises on soprano, handsomely backed up by Mark Feldman’s melodicism on violin. Before this stage, the bandleader had shown rhythmic inventiveness and strong sense of resolution during his statement.

Disc one comes to a conclusion with the 20-minute “Gendhing”, a ruminative, grateful, and feathery instrumental that keeps shifting without altering the musing spirit.

The second disc is filled with Western harmonic motions and brings further colors to the already kaleidoscopic palette. It features the up-and-coming saxophonist/clarinetist Lucas Pino on all four tracks.

Beboppin With Bella” stretches into a swinging bebop stance after a peaceful 3-minute introductory section established by piano, vibraphone, and percussion. Even limited to eight bars each, the soloists: Pino, Lopato, vibraphonist Bill Ware, and bassist Ratzo Harris, are quite generous in what comes to ideas. The vibist was the only one with permission to disseminate creativity to a greater extent after extra time has been given to him.

Jakshi” draws Middle Eastern snaky melodies mounted in unison over the audacious percussive joy put up by Sarin and John Hadfield.

The two concluding pieces, “Ambush and Aftermath” and “Peace March”, are installments of the 911 Suite, which considers portraying Lopato’s experience of living up the street from World Trade Center. Surprisingly robust in conception, the former tune takes the form of an avant-jazz spirit call, in the same line of adventurers like Albert Ayler and Oliver Lake. As a consequence of the textural surfaces that arose from Lopato’s rambling runs and dissonant flurries, a fine 6/8 groove is settled to welcome Pino’s unceremonious creative output. The final piece is a static, touching poem created with noble intentions and conveying a new sense of liberation.

Gendhing For a Spirit Rising spills grip and humanity, reinforcing the idea that the exquisiteness of world music and the openness of jazz are not mutually exclusive.

       Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
02 (cd1) - This Life ► 03 (cd2) - Ambush and Aftermath ► 04 (cd2) - Peace March