Review by Brad Walseth
This album, recorded live by a group of talented Indonesian jazz musicians, is both a truly pleasant surprise as well as providing a delightful look at the universality of great music. Led by acoustic and electric keyboardist Riza Arshad, who composed all of the material, Simak Dialog also features guitarist Tohpati Ario Hutomo, fretless electric bassist Adhitya Pratama, percussionist Endang Ramdan and percussionist/vocalist Emy Tata, with vocalist "Ubiet" Nyak Ina Raseuki on two tracks and Marla Stukenberg reading German poetry (Goethe?) on one track. If this all sounds like it may be too much, you are wrong, the solid, yet adventurous arrangements allow everyone involved to spread out and shine, but the overall feel is one of exceptional band interplay, thoughtful harmonies and intelligent and creative production of art.
Ranging from fusion to ECM-ish sonic landscapes with world music feel, with various other elements (rock, jazz, pop) thrown in,often within the same song, the five shifting songs presented flow together well, but with enough interesting directions taken so as not to sound like one long jam session. The musicians and singers are all highly talented, with Arshad and Hutomo taking most of the melodic solo passages. In an an exceptional development, Hutomo's fusionesque lead guitar interludes, while energetic, are never over-the-top or superfluous, but rather well-proportioned and within the framework. Pratama is solid on bass and very much in tune with the musical direction, while the use of Eastern percussion elements by Ramdan and Tata is inspired. The vocals also are quite good, and "Ubiet" is especially enjoyable. The balance between improvisation and composition is nicely maintained. In the spirit of Barack Obama's revolutionary presidential win, it is thrilling to hear such compelling music that combines Western and American tonality and style while also utilizing Indonesian culture, traditions and instruments to speak in the universal language of music.