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Java Jazz Festival Ends on High Note

Farah Fitriani Faruq
Farah Fitriani Faruq
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Java Jazz Festival Ends on High Note
Some things never live up to the hype. Planking, YouTube videos people e-mail you or frozen yogurt, for example. And some events have such high expectations that it seems impossible the delivery could ever match the anticipation. But Stevie Wonder’s performance on Sunday, which concluded this year’s Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival, was one of those rare gems. Wonder graced the stage for nearly two hours and performed beloved favorites such as “My Cherie Amor,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You ,” and “How Sweet It Is.” The 62-year-old Wonder’s energy transmitted to the thousands in attendance, and the tightness of his veteran band, which has been playing together for decades, elevated the performance. Since the artist has more than 30 US Top 10 singles, the well-known hits were no surprise. But when Wonder played them live, the songs came through with extra force. “Superstition,” the last tune of the evening, stood out among many stellar numbers, and the rollicking sing-along was the perfect way to close both Wonder’s performance and this year’s event. But Wonder was only one of several mega-talents who took the stage at this year’s festival, which also showcased some of the most current and interesting acts from Indonesia and abroad. The Start of Something Great Maliq and D’Essentials kicked off the festival, and the group’s vibrancy seemed to drive out the pesky gray clouds hanging over the Jakarta International Expo venue in Kemayoran. The group filled the cavernous stage area with upbeat jazz sounds that drew in early festivalgoers. American smooth jazz musician Bobby Caldwell also started on a high note, then surprised attendees by walking the grounds afterward and graciously meeting with fans. For pure jazz enthusiasts, the set by David Garfield & Friends, which featured Gerald Albright, was a highlight. Their performance had just the right combination of precision and grit as displayed during outstanding renditions of “Georgie Porgie ” and “Fried Neckbones.” Ten-time Grammy-winner Bobby McFerrin played the first of his three shows during the weekend. The vocalist, best known for the mega-hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” proved he could put on a great live show. His performance included an all-vocal duet with his son, Taylor McFerrin , who beat-boxed while Bobby hummed, sang and made percussive noises to create a modern, impromptu and impressive piece of music. McFerrin also proved to be more than just a musician making a stop through town for a paycheck. His show featured a gamelan ensemble, which performed alone, and then with McFerrin. The first night concluded with headliner Erykah Badu , who attracted many die-hard fans to the festival. The neo-soul singer’s Feb. 28 concert in Kuala Lumpur had been canceled by the country’s government after someone found a promotional photo of the singer with a tattoo reading “Allah” in Arabic on her bare shoulder. A government spokesman called it “an insult to Islam and a very serious offense.” But the same didn’t go for Indonesia, and Badu presented an exciting show that dazzled the audience while keeping true to her special mix of soul, funk and R&B. She performed some of her best-known hits, including “On and On ” and “Love of My Life,” but most impressive was her pacing — the singer knew what the audience needed and had a great knack for mixing upbeat songs with mellow tunes. It Only Gets Better The crowds were noticeably bigger on the second day of Java Jazz, a testament to a solid, headliner-less lineup. Saturday featured special shows by jazz masters Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock . Duwende , a six-piece a capella group from New York, brought in crowds to each of its performances, one of which included a small gathering in the vendors’ area that drew an audience that was bigger than some stage shows. Motown/soul throwback Mayer Hawthorne and The County put on more of a dance party than a concert. This was Hawthorne’s third visit to Jakarta in two years, and he has built up quite a fan base. His fun set was composed of singles such as “Just Ain’t Going to Work Out ” and “The Walk ,” as well as lively stage banter. Immediately following Hawthorne’s set, Latin/funk act Sheila E. Presents The E. Family added some spice to the festival. On Friday before the festival kicked off, percussionist Sheila E., a protege of Prince who has worked with George Duke and Ringo Starr, said festivalgoers could expect “a lot of fun and a lot of excitement. And if we bless just one person in the audience, then we’ve done our job.” Saturday also featured a second performance by popular Japanese guitar duo Depapepe. Miura Takuya and Tokuoka Yoshinari have earned many Indonesian fans with multiple visits and clean, complex performances. A large audience crowded in to hear favorite singles such as “Start ” and “Canon.” But the Indonesian acts were the highlight of the day. A number of musicians performed a heartfelt tribute to jazz legend Utha Likumahuwa to an appreciative audience, followed by a solid set from young singer Raisa. . But the night ended on a bluesy-rock jam band note as Gugun Blues Shelter took to the stage, going against a Hancock special show. Despite playing two shows during the festival, Hancock put all of his effort into each of his performances. On Saturday, the American jazz legend even returned for an encore. Ending With a Bang Besides Wonder, Sunday’s schedule included special shows by the Pat Metheny Trio and Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio. Both acts played twice during the weekend, and still drew packed venues on Sunday. Jarreau ended his set with a passionate performance of blues song “See See Rider ,” as he shook hands with fans and signed autographs from the stage. Saxophonist Dave Koz also performed after a five-year absence from Java Jazz. Although not as well known as his contemporary Kenny G., Koz displayed great skill and stage presence, begging the question as to why he is so underrated. His large following in Indonesia appreciated hit singles such as “Put the Top Down ” and “Faces of the Heart.” Koz sprinkled in Indonesian words and phrases into his stage banter, then surprised festivalgoers by performing his song “You Make Me Smile” with 57kustik, a group of young street musicians from Bandung. Koz said he had been e-mailed a YouTube clip featuring the musicians performing the song, and immediately asked if there was any way to bring the group to Jakarta for an appearance. Another outstanding international and national collaboration was Simon Grey featuring Tony Momrelle and Indra Lesmana. The musicians performed with a professional tightness only achieved through experience. “Ordinary People ” was a strong and catchy tune that featured an Indra piano solo. But the night ended with a star-studded bang as Wonder filled the main hall, giving fans what they had so eagerly expected and more. The weekend’s abundance of rain and traffic did nothing to dampen the excitement and passion at this year’s Java Jazz festival. Looking at the three days as a whole, the festival featured nothing less than talented, enthusiastic musicians dedicated to giving the audience their all. taken from The Jakarta Globe

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