Ubud Jazz Festival, review by Suzanne Waye, Freelance journalist partnering with events and projects for promotions and reports. Based in Australia/Indonesia with interests in music, travel and visual arts.

Performances August 2016, Ubud, Bali

“Embracing uniqueness and tolerance” was the theme of the 4th annual Ubud Village Jazz Festival. Co-founders Yuri Mahatma and Anom Darsana and their dedicated team continue to deliver a high class jazz line-up of local and international artists to the jazz-hungry crowds.

“Music is an essential global language for all people, all cultures.  It tells a story of diversity, mutual respect and shared passion in a voice that resonates with all humanity regardless of creed, colour or religion.” – Anom Darsana.

Australia was well represented at the 4th annual Ubud Village Jazz Festival held in Bali on August 12th and 13th.  Bali, better known for rice paddies, beaches and cocktails, is fast becoming a destination for  jazz!  More than 70 artists across 3 stages over two days with selected artists performing at pre-events in several locations around Bali in the week leading up to the festival.

The festival kicked off Friday and continued through to late Saturday night with a strong crowd keen to experience great music, food and stalls with the impressive Giri, Padi and Subak stages displaying world-class local and international jazz talent.

Returning for a second year, the Melbourne based Julian Banks Trio consisting of Julian Banks (saxophone), Christopher Hale (bass guitar), James Hauptmann (drums) joined by Indonesian percussionist, Cepi Kusmiadi (kendang). Encaptivated the audience with their original compositions including locally inspired “Ulluwatu”, their entertaining stage presence and unique sounds made it hard to take your eyes off them. With one album released in 2014, Banks announced the trio would be recording a new album over the next few months in collaboration with Kusmiadi.

ubud oleoAlso represented was Energetic Zen Quartet out of Sydney with Simon Chadwick (saxophone), Deva Permana (drums), Hannah James (acoustic bass) and Casey Golden (piano).  The crowd appreciated their contagious energy, playing their own arrangements including “Vision Impact”, the title track from their album.  Permana, Sydney based but born and raised in Indonesia, showed his skills at playing the kendang to bring an Indonesian flavour to their set.  Deva, describing himself as a ‘rhythm engineer’, is passionate about the Australian/Indonesian music connection. Permana will be participating in a workshop for music students at the Traditional Conservatorium at UPI, Bandung, and the quartet will perform in Java before returning home to Australia.

Featured act from the USA, Peter Bernstein (guitar) and Rueben Rogers (bass) indulged the audience on the main Giri stage where it was standing room only.  Bernstein with his clean, warm guitar tone. Jim Hall noted Bernstein as being “…the most impressive guitarist I’ve heard”.  Rogers, a brilliant bassist born in the Virgin Islands he has toured all over the world and has recorded on more than 70 albums.  The crowd became silent during the performance, listening to every note and entranced with the sound, erupting into applause in appreciation of the talent they saw before them.

Louis! Project (Holland) enthralled the crowd with a vibrant tribute to jazz legend, Louis Armstrong.  A very entertaining act with a theatrical feel.  The crowd appreciating the showmanship and impressive scat-off between lead vocalist, Michael Varecamp and guest vocalist, Deborah J Carter.  The crowd insisting on an encore were treated with “What a Wonderful World” and many chose to sing along.

The Giri stage lit up as and Piotr Orzechowski, pianist, and the High Definition Quartet from Poland delivered a captivating performance! Orzechowski, also known as the “Pianohooligan” is just 25 years old and is considered a musical sensation winning multiple awards and releasing his first album at just 21 years old.

Other international artists included talented pianist Gregory Gaynair (Germany) and the East West Jazz Ensemble; the mesmerising flamenco-jazz feel of the Ian Scionti Trio and Angin Asia (Japan) original and fresh featuring interpretive dance.
Margie Segers and Glen Dauna drew the largest crowd of the festival.  Accompanied by Indra Dauna on trumpet and Rega Dauna on harmonica.  Margie, the first lady of jazz in Indonesia, was very interactive with the band, singing a variety of English and Indonesian songs and engaging the audience.  At times, Margie and Glen faded back to allow Indra and Rega to take the spotlight in a display of nurturing the young musicians, Margie also paying respect to the late Jack Lesmana.

Oele Pattiselanno and his company including Jeffrey Tahalele (bass), Deska (drums) and Benny (piano) had an audience waiting for him at the Padi stage.  The sound emanating from the stage showed the years of experience, with some of the band members playing together for more than 30 years.

The beautiful Mia Samira and her timeless, sultry jazz style, was every bit visual as vocal with the audience left feeling like it was an intimate jazz club of days gone by.  More local talent included Bali Gypsy Fire with their traditional jazz standards, high energy latin jazz with Nita Aartsen and Jean Sebastien on piano and trumpet respectively and Sandy Winarta Trio with Sandy on drums and accompanied by bass and piano.

With young local musicians including The Michael Setiawan Quintet playing original compositions; Yamaha Music Project performing jazz versions of Radiohead classics; crowd favourites – The Daunas (Glen, Indra & Rega); fresh talent of Underground Jazz Movement; and the impressive sounds of Salamander Big Band, the future of jazz in Indonesia is exciting!

Performers of the festival were invited to attend a jam session at the conclusion of the festival where music was the language that broke all communication barriers.