Guitarist Dewa Budjana, an Indonesian pop rock star with his band Gigi, is a phenomenal jazz musician as well. His newly released album Joged Kahyangan (“Dancing Heaven,” according to the liner notes) has him wearing his jazz hat. His sixth album as leader, this marks his second release for Moonrise Records, has him working with a stellar cast of American jazz artists: Larry Golding on acoustic piano and Hammond organ, Bob Mintzer on reeds, Jimmy Johnson on bass guitar, and Peter Erskine on drums. Manhattan Transfer’s Janis Siegel contributes a vocal on a tune called “As You Leave My Nest,” a mother’s loving advice and blessing to her grown child.
The album features 10 original Budjana compositions running from the exotic stylings of “Majik Blue” and “Guru Mandala” to the lyricism of “Borra’s Ballad.” “Erskoman” was written especially for drummer Peter Erskine. Not only does it give him the opportunity to step up, it has some fine work from Golding on the organ, to say nothing about Budjana himself. He is an inventive guitarist with a clean refined sound.
The album itself makes for a nuanced cultural collaboration between East and West.
In contrast, where Budjana’s music takes cognizance of his roots, you would be hard put to find much in the way of roots in the Serbian guitarist Dusan Jevtovic’s debut album for Moonrise, Am I Walking Wrong? Leading a trio with his New York-based countryman Marko Djordjevic on drums and Bernat Hernandez on bass guitar, Jevtovic has put together a jazz-rock fusion set that explodes with rock dynamite out of the gate. Even in its softer moments it seems bound in Western ideas.
Here, too, we have 10 original compositions, opening with three rockers: “You Can’t Sing, You Can’t Dance,” “Drummer’s Dance,” and the title song. Although they play some with tempos, all are clear indications of the band’s direction. The important thing is they work together to produce some truly energetic fusion.
It’s not all high power rock, though. “In the Last Moment II” is dark and dissonant, and “Embracing Simplicity” builds on a lyrical framework to some powerful guitar work. It has an almost minimalist vibe, as does “Third Life,” before moving into a fantasy of sound play as the song progresses. “Tratatata” is a raw rock interlude that takes the listener back to the album’s opener, and “Bluesracho” is an off-center blues. The album ends with a little screeching, leading to an almost folksy minimalist theme in “If I See You Again.”
Jevtovic and his trio make a good case jazz-rock fusion with their music.