Rants And Raves: July 2009

July 1, 2009


Demi Masa


Founded in the early ’90s with a standard quartet lineup, Indonesian jazzfusion group simakDialog—which means “listening intensively to the dialog”— reorganized after its first few albums, most notably replacing the kit drummer with two percussionists. On their latest studio album, Endang Ramdan and Erlan Suwardana (with guest Emy Tata) generate ever-shifting polyrhythmic layers using traditional Sudanese kendang drums and other hand percussion, while keyboardist Riza Arshad and guitarist Tohpati Ario Hutomo weave intriguing chordal and melodic motifs and textures on top, and bassist Adhithya Pratama holds everything together. Arshad’s Fender Rhodes, grand piano, and Oberheim OBX analog synth sounds suggest ’70s Electric Miles or Weather Report, but with an approach as rooted in Asian music as it is jazz. Hutomo has forged an equally distinct identity. For example, on his solo on “Forever Part One,” it sounds like he’s using a vintage octavefuzz and/or ring modulator, manipulated in various ways as he gradually develops increasingly extended, sinuous lines. Or on “Not So Far Part One,” where he employs similar tones, but moves from funky chord stabs to rhythmically complex note clusters and twisting legato lines. Subtle ambient atmospherics, sitar-like sounds, and autofiltered fusion licks are also included in Hutomo’s delightful box of surprises. Fascinating. Moonjune. —Barry Cleveland


Live at the Linda


David Grier has a good bluegrass pedigree (his dad played banjo with Bill Monroe), so it’s pretty much his birthright to possess decent flat-top chops. What he throws down on this live CD, however, is way beyond anything he could have picked up through DNA, osmosis, or from the water in Nashville. This guy is an absolutely stunning performer who effortlessly combines gorgeous technique and tone and somehow still has enough brainpower left over to crack jokes at the same time. He opens with “Have You Ever Been to England,” with beautiful lines gushing from his ’46 Martin D-28. Grier’s arrangement of “America the Beautiful/ Yesterday” is a brilliant study in independence, with the bass line and chords able to completely stand on their own, except that he plays amazing melodies right along with them. His anecdotes in between the tunes are hilarious and whether he’s playing “a real song or just one he made up,” he does it at a ridiculously high level. Bravo! Dreadnought. —Matt Blackett
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