Another reason is that Leonardo MoonJune Pavkovic has traveled the globe in search of “undiscovered” talent. One of those discoveries was Indonesian guitarist and composer Dewa Budjana. His current album Naurora is just the latest example of his incredible musical prowess. He has released several albums with MoonJune and his band Gigi constantly plays to packed concert venues with record sales in the millions.
Yet another reason for MoonJune’s success is the combination of artists into trios, quartets, and more that become truly greater than the sum of their parts. Dewa has teamed with the likes of Tohpati, Balawan, Ridho, Abdee Negara, from Indonesia. He has also collaborated with international musicians such as Vinnie Colaiuta, John Frusciante, Peter Erskine, Jimmy Johnson, Antonio Sanchez, Joe Locke, Gary Husband, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess, and Bob Mintzer. Heavy-hitters, one and all.
On Naurora¸ he is again teamed with Gary Husband (piano, keyboards) and Jimmy Johnson (bass) but also with bassists Carlitos Del Puerto and Ben Williams, drummers Dave Weckl and Simon Phillips, Joey Alexander on acoustic piano, Mateus Asato on guitar, and Paul McCandless on soprano sax. Imee Ooi makes an appearance on vocals. With a line-up like this, they can play Country & Western and it would still sound amazing.
But, thank heavens, they don’t. No, the five songs on Naurora are all composed and arranged by Dewa Budjana himself.
The title track, Naurora, opens the album and features Joey Alexander on piano, Carlitos Del Puerto on bass, and Simon Phillips on drums with vocalizations by Imee Ooi. Joey and Dewa introduce the song with Simon Phillips soon joining in alongside Carlitos. The guitar is meditative and reflective before turning aggressive. Joey Alexander proves that he can play anything and his Jazz licks are brilliant here.
Swarna Jingga sees the inimitable Dave Weckl on drums and Jimmy Johnson on bass. Mateus Asato gives a funky guitar intro and adds a cool solo. But, as always, it’s Dewa who steals the show. The arrangement is just so cool and hearing these Jazz/Progressive masters together is a work of art.
Kmalasana sees the return of Carlitos Del Puerto and Simon Phillips in trio with Dewa. The slower tempo number allows for more tonal expression and this is the trio to make it happen at its best. Dewa isn’t just the blistering guitar shredder, he is a master of phrasing and tonality.
Sabana Shanti features Joey Alexander again, Ben Williams on the upright bass, Dave Weckl on drums, and Paul McCandless beautiful soprano sax. The song is a sweet melody and the piano and soprano sax work exquisitely with Dewa’s guitar to create a winsome tune. Weckl can play as melodically as anyone and he proves it here.
Blue Mansion is a return to the virtuosity and rhythms that have endeared Dewa Budjana to his millions of listeners. With Carlitos Del Puerto on bass, Gary Husband on piano and synthesizers, and Simon Phillips on drums, Blue Mansion is an excellent way to wrap an album. I love the way Dewa composes and arranges. A master, if ever there was one.
Naurora is Dewa Budjana and company right on time and on track. The writing is inspired and innovative and the performances from everyone on board are pure gold. Dewa never, ever disappoints.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl