Dewa Budjana – Hasta Karma (2015)

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Say you’re a crackerjack Indonesian fusion guitarist and last year you put forth a trio record with drum boss Vinnie Colaiuta and Allan Holdsworth/James Taylor bassist Jimmy Johnson. And now, you want to follow that up with an album with a rhythm section that generates just as much excitement. Who do you pick to fill in those shoes?

Well, Dewa Budjana managed to match the excitement level, and not with a drummer/bass pair I would have thought of, but should have.

Hasta Karma is that follow-up to the Colaiuta/Johnson encounter Surya Namaskar, with Pat Metheny Unity Band’s Antonio Sanchez (drums) and Ben Williams (acoustic bass) put in charge of the rhythmic and low-end backing this time. What’s more, Dewa Budjana reinvents his music around the unique talents of Sanchez and Williams, moving from a brawny power trio to a lithe, somewhat atmospheric and worldly quartet, adding Joe Locke on the vibraphone.

The brisk, unusual fills over an unusual time signature that greets the ears immediately on the opener “Saniscara,” and Williams’ deft articulations is tightly in sync despite the complexity. Later on, Dewa Budjana’s stinging lines places barbed edges on a smooth, syncopated groove. The soft and hard sides of Budjana’s are displayed in even sharper relief on “Desember,” with a celestial theme and a harder rocking bridge. Jro Ktut’s chanting on “Ruang Dialisis” makes the southeastern Asian heritage of Budjana’s music explicit and Budjana’s anguished guitar wraps itself around that during the free-for-all climax.

Keyboardist Indra Lesmana lends his electric piano to “Ruang,” acoustic piano to “Just Kidung” and a melodica to “Payogan Rain,” helping to assure that the album ends as strong as it began. “Just Kidung” is up-and-down chart with Third World origin that Dewa Budjana fashions into a catchy, sleek contemporary strain. Williams’ funky bass jam is followed by Lesmana’s stylish piano solo. On the shimmering “Payogan Rain,” that melodica in front of Sanchez and Williams can’t help but to make me think of Metheny and his “Red One” guitar synth, but when Budjana steps up front to leave behind his own guitar phrases, it affirms that he is quite his own man.

Out on February 17, 2015, Hasta Karma is already the fourth Dewa Budjana release for MoonJune Records since 2011. MoonJune founder Leonardo Pavkovic’s ear for finding rich talent in Indonesia has yielded a bumper crop of fusion jazz records that’s a little divergent from the norm, because it’s informed by a merging of diverse cultural streams by some open-minded, prodigal musicians. Hasta Karma is one of those records.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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