The people that know me are well aware that I appreciate and support all kinds of music. Being a composer and musician myself automatically directs me toward the sounds that appeal to me--and my tastes are very eclectic. Being a child of the 50s and 60s, I grew up with rock 'n' roll, but I also had a love of movie soundtrack music.
The Big Bang in music for me, though, happened when I went to college in the early 70s. There I was exposed to different kinds of music that, up to that point, I was not accustomed to. I had started getting into jazz during high school with the advent of jazz fusion (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Return to Forever, etc.), and once I was in college I explored the genre further. I became deeply entrenched in what we now call progressive rock, and I especially was attracted to the more experimental, underground acts (Soft Machine, Gentle Giant, Hatfield and the North, Henry Cow) along with the more popular, commercial ones (Jethro Tull, Yes, Pink Floyd). Those years solidified my love of the unusual. To this day I seek out not the current Flavor of the Month that appears on "Saturday Night Live" and wins Grammies, but rather the hard-working, under-the-radar, extremely talented artists that attempt something new and exciting within the Progressive, jazz, or experimental genres.
Today I'd like to endorse two recent discoveries.
The first one comprises just about everything that can be found on the Moonjune label. Run by Leonardo Pavkovic out of New York, the label releases mostly world music in progressive and jazz veins; for example, the great jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth is on Moonjune, as well as the Soft Machine Legacy and other members from the so-called "Canterbury" school of prog.
But the most impressive stuff on Leonardo's brand is the music coming out of Indonesia. That country has become a hot bed of tremendous jazz, jazz-fusion, and prog rock.
I was recently asked to write liner notes to the new album by the jazz fusion band, simakDialog. Their sixth CD, The Sixth Story, will be released by Moonjune very soon, and the band is embarking on their first U.S. tour at the end of August/early September 2013. They'll be playing dates on the East Coast (Prog Day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and dates in New York and elsewhere). Led by Riza Arshad on keyboards, the band might be described as "Return to Forever meets East Asia." The music is extremely complex but very accessible. Here are some YouTube samplings of their stuff:
simakDialog Live in Nepal
The talented guitarist of simakDialog is Tohpati, who is rapidly becoming the Jimi Hendrix of Indonesia. He has his own albums, including the above pictured power trio, and a more cultural fusion experiment called Tohpati Ethnomission. This guy is unbelievably good.
Finally, there's the brilliant Dewa Budjana, another virtuoso guitarist, who gives us a world music that transports the listener to foreign and exotic places.
Dewa Budjana Live
Dewa Budjana and Tohpati together
There are, of course, other Indonesian acts besides these, and you can find most of them at Moonjune. In fact, the label's online store is having a big sale. Check out these great acts!
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The second discovery I very recently made was also through Leonardo, who recommended the works of guitarist Nicolas Meier. He hails from Switzerland but resides in England. Another virtuoso who experiments with world music influences, Meier has recorded many albums of his own, as well as spin-off side projects with various jazz and pop musicians. I particularly like Eclectica, which delivers a more traditional jazz sound, specially augmented by the exquisite Lizzie Ball on violin and vocals (fantastic!). Meier's first big release was an album of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" performed on electric and acoustic guitars--superb. He even does heavy metal in band called seven7, for those who like that stuff.
Nicolas Meier Trio
Right now I'm moving through nearly a dozen Nic Meier CDs, as I'm still uncovering the treasures within. Once again... highly recommended.
So, with that, enjoy your summer. Keep your ears wax-free and your mind open... buy some new music and explore new worlds. You won't regret it.