Dewa Budjana, the Indonesian guitarist returns with his fourth album for Moonjune Records. Titled Hasta Karma. He's quite a busy bee, you could say. His last two albums, Joged Kahyangan (2013, see review) and Surya Namaskar (2014, see review) were recorded in the Los Angeles area, but now a new challenge was offered: to perform and record in New York. The first that came up to accompany Dewa on this album was drummer Antonio Sanchez. The next bass player was suggested by Antonio; Ben Williams. Now the rhythm section was ready to play, but a piano player was going to be a problem. Several major piano players who were asked could not make the recording sessions, until someone suggested to ask Joe Locke, the famous vibraphone player to join the recordings. As an extra, Indonesian piano and melodica player Indra Lesmana joined for the last three songs on this CD.
As you might know Dewa Budjana is a very talented jazz guitarist whose improvisation abilities are outstanding. Jazz for the listeners that are not used to it can be quite confusing, but with structured pattern and floating melodies, this kind of music is still accessible for most musical enthusiasts. The opener, Saniscara is a pleasant composition; up tempo with a cool bass that accompanies Dewa's nice melodies. In fact this composition really sounds like a standard jazz jam with improvised guitar parts and room for bass and drum to claim their ground. The following Desember starts as a sort of standard as well, but during this composition Joe Locke's vibraphone creates a moment of relaxation after a free style solo on the guitar, which ends up in a nice form of Yin and Yang. Pretty balanced is Jayaprana, where all four instrumentalists get their moment in the spotlight, creating a cool and mellow composition that stays interesting to the end. Complete beyond my imagination goes Ruang Dialisis, where at first parts referring to Terje Rypdal are played, half way the song a strong vibraphone and bass play a nice part, then hell breaks loose with weird improvisation with Indonesian voices taking you to the end. Just Kidung is a song with a happy tuning, similar to Jayaprana, just with the addition of a fine piano solo. The last composition Campuhan Hill sees the melodica as one of the major instruments, besides the leading part of the upright bass. Sometimes this instrument has the sound of an harmonica played by Toots Tielemans, during other parts the old TV series M*A*S*H comes to mind when I listen to this instrument.
Dewa Budjana has taken a new step in his career by visiting the jazz scene in New York. New elements of jazz have been added to his quiver, enlarging his knowledge of music and so enable him to create new things. Hasta Karma on the other side gives me the feeling of four musicians getting to know each other musically, therefor not really taking risks and sticking to safe patterns to improvise over. I guess the LA sessions gave me the idea they were more spontaneous, but still a nice east coast jazz album.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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