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Dewa Budjana — Naurora
(Moonjune MJR115, 2021, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2021-08-05

Naurora Cover art On Naurora, Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana continues his journey into electric jazz tinged with progressive rock. He’s aided this time out by a cadre of outstanding bassists (Ben Williams, Carlitos del Puerto, Jimmy Johnson), drummers (Dave Weckl, Simon Phillips), and keyboardists (Gary Husband, Joey Alexander), along with Imee Ooi (vocals), Paul McCandless (soprano sax), and Mateus Asato (guitar), with personnel varying from track to track. This is another one of those pandemic recordings where the players’ parts were recorded individually at locations around the world and assembled into the final product, and in this case, Budjana himself did the final work. The five tracks, all written by Budjana, range from tasty melodic grooves to energetic workouts, and in spite of the differing players appearing on tracks, sounds as consistent as a set band would. The title track starts things out with an eerie soundscape from echoing guitar and some wandering piano notes from Alexander before a quick unison pattern on acoustic guitar and piano emerges. The main melody is played on electric guitar and bass together, and they wind into a great riff that backs a very creative guitar solo with a fascinating and unusual tone. It’s the longest track on the album, and probably my favorite. “Swarna Jingga” has a funky edge to it and a wonderful melody that reminds me of classic Mahavishnu Orchestra. Weckl gets to go a little wild in one section, and Johnson’s bass solo is outstanding. “Kmalasana” takes a slower pace, with Budjana taking the lead on slide guitar. On the mostly acoustic “Sabana Shanti,” McCandless handles the main melody with some tasty piano by Alexander and upright bass from Williams. The set finishes off with “Blue Mansion,” bringing in Husband on keys while Phillips handles the drums. I’m reminded a bit of the work that Jan Hammer and Jeff Beck did together back in the 70s. It’s a great tune, and a great way to finish off a fine album. I’ll avoid the dreaded F-word — not that F-word, “fusion” is the one I mean — and just say that Naurora is sure to be one of the highlights of 2021 in jazz.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Dewa Budjana, Simon Phillips, Dave Weckl, Gary Husband

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