In his conditioning collaboration with Jimmy Johnson the monster bassist and the incomparable Vinnie Colaiuta, Budjana is able to follow paths of brilliant improvisation.
Budjana composed, arranged and produced all eight tracks on “Surya Namaskar.” Guests artists like Gary Husband (Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin) and Michael Landau (James Taylor and more) make stunning single-track contributions. For writers, a great treat is to find the liner notes written by the brilliant John Kelman. There is literally something for everyone on this album.
The album’s title “Surya Namaskar” literally means “Salute to the Sun” and while he muses that his previous album “Joged Kahyangan” may be “too smooth” for some, this album is anything but smooth.
“Duaji and Guruji” (Grown man and Guru) follows next and creates the obvious atmosphere of expected excellence—expected because it is Budjana, Johnson and Colaiuta. Nothing is quite as comforting as sitting back in expectancy, knowing that what follows will undoubtedly be amazing. Johnson and Colaiuta (not to mention Leonardo Pavkovic) have never disappointed and Budjana has created that same sense.
“Duaji and Guruji” is a track that completely satisfies. That satisfaction continues on “Capistrano Road.” It is reminiscent—in fact, this is true of the whole album—of every great song and artist well-loved. It is easy to hear echoes of Holdsworth and Bruford in early U.K. There are moments like Steven Wilson’s most memorable work. Lyrical, luscious and so well-structured.
“Lamboya” has that virtuosic progressive edge to it that is strict in its hard groove with beautiful melodic departures. It begins with a cool snare and kick from Colaiuta in sync with that effortless, fretless sound of Johnson.
The fifth track is “Kalingga” and can be said to be the anchor of the album in many ways. It is so improvised, so literally “off the charts” and yet contains astounding elements of West Javan and Indonesian traditional music. This was enhanced by the inclusion of Kang Pupung on the tarawangsa (Sundanese violin), Kang Iya on kacapi (Sundanese harp) and the soaring vocals of Mang Ayi. Budjana’s sitar is in exquisite symmetry with Johnson’s lovely bass.
All in all, “Kalingga” is a free-wheeling romp in the studio. “Charts? We don’t need no stinking charts!”
“Campuhan Hill” contains some of the most haunting guitar lines imaginable and shifts to a melodic phrase seamlessly. Campuhan Hill is a village near Bali’s cultural and artistic center at Ubud. The open string playing helps create a vivid atmosphere that is unlike the other songs on the atmosphere. However, like six of the eight songs on the album, it was also a one-take track. The piece itself is dedicated to Allan Holdsworth.
The title track, “Surya Namaskar” features Micahel Landau on bluesy, electric guitar with Budjana moving to acoustic. Colaiuta’s brush work and Johnson’s flowing bass create a gentle backdrop for Budjana and Landau who together create—at times—a Michael Jackson “Human Nature” vibe. Landau turns in extraordinary and beautifully trilling guitar textures.
This is from the December, 2013 album "Dawai in Paradise" on MoonJune Records.
The album concludes with the intriguing and entrancing “Dalem Waturenggog.” There are sweet scales and riveting riffs and a bouncy dialogue between Budjana and Johnson as Colaiuta drills the rhythm. The tracks concludes with hot speed and a fiery crash.
From the grand opening, this album seizes the listener and relentlessly holds on until the riveting conclusion. Budjana and Johnson are binary stars with each exerting their own interlocking gravity. Add Colaiuta to them and the physics of the music becomes mind-boggling.
It is the album I have been hoping to hear from him. He does not disappoint.
Visit Dewa Budjana's website here: http://www.dewabudjana.com.
The purchase "Surya Namaskar" by Dewa Budjana, go to MoonJune Records here: Surya Namaskar.