Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On Discovering New Music

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
Kata Hari

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.
Tohpati Bertiga
Tohpati Ethnomission

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
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.


  1. Raymond - Thanks for the tip on Nicolas Meier. I liked what I heard of his material and will investigate more. I'm jealous that you'll get to hear simakDialog this fall!

  2. Thanks David. Do check him out, he's great. Wish you could go to Prog Day!

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  4. Raymond - It was great meeting you at ProgDay!! I am still in the blissful afterglow of having seen simakDialog three times now. What a great bunch of guys!!! From the description of your musical journey it seems we travelled very similar paths, though I started at the Canterbury/Wyatt end and got into Mahavishnu and the whole early fusion thing when it first came into being. Where my tastes diverge from many prog fans is in the area of the more avant-garde stuff (Henry Cow, Etron Fou, Debile Menthol, etc) I would much rather listen to that style of music than to some 7 member band trying to emulate the golden years of Genesis, Yes or the later uninspired sounds of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree. I look forward to many musical exchanges with you both here and on Facebook. Be well!

  5. Dan, great meeting you as well. Yes, our musical paths sound very similar. Let's keep in touch!

  6. Hi Raymond. I often attend the AHML film events and enjoy your perspective and humor. Decided to take a look at your web site and was very interested in this posting. I enjoy guitar-centric music of all sorts so I will definitely give these links a good listen. You got my mind working and I thought I would recommend a few things you may not have heard. One is by Chicago's own John Moulder. He has an excellent recording, "Bifrost," which definitely tips its hat to the Mahvishnu Orchestra. If you enjoy more pure jazz forms, I find Christian Scott, the young New Orleans trumpeter does a great job of fitting a rock accented guitar into his current band. Great CD's: "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow" and "Rewind That." If you are willing to venture deep into European modern jazz, Louis Sclavis' "Napoli's Walls," is an amazing avant-gardish CD, (though the guitar playing is in the background and plays an almost percussive role in this CD), its a crazy, good recording.