Celebration of the spirit: footloose, and sometimes furious, filigree fusion from Indonesia’s fast-fingered finest, with enviable company to help him roll it.
One may thought that jazz-rock lost its progressive motion before the ’70s were over, and even in its heyday ivories-based gems in the vein of David Sancious’ debut used to be rare but, fortunately, there’s a great distance between Jakarta and New York, so the notions of passing fads have some way to go to settle in local creative minds. That’s where the title of Dwiki Dharmawan’s proper international debut comes into play, the keyboardist twining American fusion tradition and traditional Javanese melodies – with his compatriots in a six-string department and elite rhythm section for enhanced flexibility – while gently pushing the result towards retrofuturism.
A shift so obvious in the tinseled “NYC 2050,” a penultimate composition here, a cut to the chase is on within the first seconds of this journey, once Chad Wackerman’s salvo dissolves in the weave of Dharmawan’s cosmic Moog and Jerry Goodman’s violin: the exotic edge of “Arafura” has a symphonic sway to it yet, when let loose, a funky airiness, too. Anything feels congruous on this album, and the tribal turns of the title track welcome Hammond for a tasty roar; that’s why it’s so easy to breathe in Dwiki’s sonic jungle, urban or otherwise, even in the impressionist jive of “Jembrana’s Fantasy” with its piano racing and jumping, accompanied by frenzied percussion, towards a twilit barrelhouse.
But though it’s murky in there, a ruminative calm behind “Bromo” can’t refuse the occasional riff from Dewa Budjana’s guitar whose licks feel like a perfect foil for Fender Rhodes palpable ripple in the central part of the piece prefacing its majestic uplift. Deeper still, Jimmy Haslip’s bass sends a seismic spell into “Whale Dance” that’s soul-shatteringly vibrant, Tohpati’s acoustic lace giving it even more lucidity, before “The Dark Of The Light” rocks an organ fugue, and the baroque of “The Return Of The Lamafa” is fed into a pure, arresting prog in the ’70s vein.
They don’t make them like this anymore, one says? “So Far So Close” proves the maxima wrong: not elusive, the pleasure of it is right in front of you.