Simakdialog - Trance/Mission

Kev Rowland, Simakdialog - Trance/Mission

At the beginning of February, Leonardo Pavkovic of Moonjune released the following statement. “On January 13, 2017, I have lost one of my closest friends, the Indonesian piano and Fender Rhodes maestro, an accomplished composer, arranger and musicologist, the Indonesian music icon - Riza Arshad. Riza was a special friend of mine since 2000, a man of great humanity and immense musical talent. In 2003, on my first of 25+ trips to Indonesia, Riza was the really first person whom I met in the Indonesian capital, and he virtually introduced me to 'everyone' on the Indonesian music scene. 20 releases of Indonesian artists on MoonJune Records wouldn't be possible without Riza's input. I was looking forward to seeing simakDialog at the upcoming JavaJazz Festival the first week of March and discuss with Riza 2017 releases of his band's new studio album, as well the release of his new solo album recorded in Los Angeles in two sessions (in September 2013 and November 2016) with Ernest Tibbs on bass and Chad Wackerman on drums. It's a sad moment for me, but the life goes on and Riza Arshad's legacy must live forever. There is no better way to celebrate my friend's music than listening to my friend's music, and I invite You all to do the same, to listen to the great music of my dear late friend, and music visionary, Riza Arshad. Rhodes to Paradise. R.I.P. Riza Arshad (November 2, 1963 - January 13, 2017).” To celebrate his music, Leo then made available for free download the four albums simakDialog had released through Moonjune, plus an earlier album originally only released inside Indonesia. I already had the latest album ready for review, but it seemed fitting to visit those I had yet to hear, and review them all together. Riza Arshad was a great talent, and will be sorely missed by those who have heard his music.

Formed in 1993, simakDialog were an Indonesian fusion band who released their first album as along ago as 1995, with ‘Trance/Mission’ being their third in 2002. Throughout their career their music centred around the soloing and fluidity of the keyboard player Ravid Arshad and guitarist Tohpati, combined with local Gamelan music to create something that was incredibly accessible to Western ears, yet also stayed very true to their roots. The fluidity and melody of Ravid and Tohpati is incredible, relying far more on intricate runs than the use of chords, with each both being prepared to take the lead, duet with the other, or even take a total break from the music altogether. It isn’t unusual to find one of them totally absent for long periods of time, just to give the other more space to move and breathe. Tohpati always makes me think of John McLaughlin, and strangely so does Ravid although he is playing keyboards, which is probably why they work so well together.

Ravid uses an electric organ to great effect on this album, with my favourite number probably “Throwing Words” where Tohpati lets Ravid get on with it, until he comes back with a slightly distorted guitar which is totally at odds with what has been going on before, really shifting the timbre and style of music. Indro Hardjodikoro has a delicate touch on the bass, providing warmth and filling the gaps between the melody makers and the percussion. There are four guys playing a variety of Indonesian instruments that provide an authenticity and realism to the music, a total fusion not just of jazz and rock, but world music and the west. 

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