The latest release from MoonJune Records is Joged Kahyangan by guitarist/composer Dewa Budjana. Budjana is the leader of the Indonesian pop-rock group Gigi who have released 20 albums since 1996 and who enjoy rock-star status in Indonesia, selling out stadiums--a secret too well kept from the West until now.
In 2002, Dewa Budjana came to the U.S. while Gigi was taking a break. He got in touch with famed drummer Peter Erskine and the two hit it off. Erskine brought aboard the late bassist Dave Carpenter and even a studio in Santa Monica, CA. The project became a trio and the album Samsara was released in 2003. A second trio recording, Home, would follow in 2005.
In early 2013, Budjana was brought into the MoonJune Records family and now his music is enjoyed outside of his native Indonesia. That first album with MoonJune Records was Dewa in Paradise.
The original trio has now expanded into a larger format and the astonishing result is the latest offering entitled, Joged Kahyangan. It was recorded in a single day with no rehearsals and required no more than 2-3 takes for each track.
Larry Goldings piano work is a great pairing with Dewa’s guitar and Jimmy Johnson (who worked with Allan Holdsworth) has never disappointed on the bass. Throw in Bob Mintzer on sax and clarinet and we got the makings. The piece is immensely enjoyable.
“Joged Kahyangan” is the second track and who could be prepared for such a fascinating piece? Dewa is often compared to Pat Metheny but on this track it is Steve Howe that comes more readily to mind with that same finesse and delicacy. The sax and piano corroboration is incredibly intriguing. The dueling arpeggios are sweet.
Jimmy Johnson is fluid and unforced, Peter Erskine is straight-on genius and the whole piece becomes uplifting and delightful. Bob Mintzer is staggering.
This epic is told in Jazz on Joged Kahyangan, with Erskine lighting it up against Goldings enchanting piano. With a powerful and tempered rhythm section, Budjana is free to take off and each member takes the opportunity to do just that.
The one and only vocal track is “As You Leave My Nest” which features Janis Siegel who also composed the lyrics alongside Rabbi Harry Levin. Siegel adds her soulful self to the instrumental mastery of the band.
“Erskoman” is Peter Erskine’s nickname and the piece is dedicated to him. After all, it was Erskine who caused it all to gear up for Dewa’s excursion into Jazz. Erskine counts off the track and Dewa’s guitar is exquisite. Goldings' Hammond again is featured, then Dewa creates a guitar riff reminiscent of The Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sassafras.”
“Borra’s Ballad” closes out the album. It is the instrumental version of “As You Leave My Nest.” Erskine employs the lightest of brush-strokes as Golding intones a gentle Gospel feel from the Hammond. Atop it all, Dewa Budjana’s guitar is refined and refreshing. It is elegant and emotive and is a fine conclusion to a brilliant album.
From start to finish, the album is arrayed with beautiful compositions and arrangements. Each musician is the perfect fit and Budjana shows himself equal to his company.
Leonardo Pavkovic has laid bare a goldmine of incredible music and musicians from Indonesia. While Dewa Budjana has enjoyed rock-star status in his homeland, Pavkovic and MoonJune Records have introduced him to the world as a Jazz Master. Ignore comparisons to Pat Metheny or anyone else. Dewa Budjana stands on his own.
To purchase Joged Kahyangan by Dewa Budjana, order from MoonJune Records here: https://moonjunerecords.bandcamp.com/album/joged-kahyangan/