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(78:51, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Man's Relationship with His Fragile Area 0:44 2. Necrophilia 1:31 3. Counting Miles & Smiles 4:59 4. Moving Side 7:55 5. Early Years 5:58 6. Multiply by Zero 1:34 7. Chin Up 7:06 8. The Sweetest Horn 6:43 9. It's All Yours 1 11:17 10. It's All Yours 2 5:58 11. It's All Yours 3 6:23 12. It's All Yours 4 5:46 13. It's All Yours 5 4:00 14. It's All Yours 6 8:57 LINEUP: Tesla Manaf guitars With: Rudy Zulkarnaen basses Gega Mesywara basses Desal Sembada drums Dani Irjayana drums Mumu saxophone, flute Hulhul clarinet, trompet pencak, flute Dewa Made Premana gangsa Adrian Firdaus gangsa Yd Nafis keyboards Zaky vocals Wisnu Pramadi kantil William Teh Putra kantil Gede Darma Raharja jublag, kempluk, gong
Prolusion. Indonesian composer and guitarist TESLA MANAF will most likely be an unknown quantity to most people. Still in his twenties, this young guitarist does have two albums to his name already, but as they were released in his home market, chances are that not too many people outside of Indonesia are aware of those productions. This self-titled CD is the international debut album of Manaf, and here Moonjune Records has assembled both albums, previously released in Indonesia, into one album.
Analysis. While this production features the talents of a talented Indonesian musician, working with a number of skilled musicians from his own country, the first part of this album doesn't really sound like it was recorded there. Instead, we're treated to just over half an hours worth of jazz that might have been recorded just about anywhere, and with what I'd describe as a fairly vintage sound as well. And to my mind, vintage in this case might as well be back in the 40s, and the style in question one that resides firmly inside the jazz spectrum. The 8 compositions that make up the first half of the album are fairly expressive instrumentals, the shorter pieces standalone guitar excursions, while the longer tracks revolve around interplay between the guitar and the clarinet, with the plucked, delicate notes of the former creating a distinct old-fashioned atmosphere to the proceedings not all that common to encounter these days, at least for someone who doesn't usually listen to all that jazz. Light in tone, without any effects to speak of, the guitar sound is clean and subtle, and Manaf has a dexterous set of hands in which he explores his instrument. More often than not supplementing the clarinet, which does tend to grab the limelight with its melancholic presence. Towards the end of the album we're treated to two compositions that expand the scope of this album to incorporate more of a progressive rock-oriented feel though, as both Chin Up and The Sweetest Horn incorporate movements with much less of a jazz-oriented style, the expressive heart of these compositions venturing beyond technical and improvisational features to also incorporate stylistic variation and experimentation to a much stronger degree. The second half of the album is a much different affair altogether. Still arguably well within the jazz universe and still with that old time, light toned and elegant, dexterous guitar style and delivery, those compositions revolve rather more heavily on Indonesian percussion details, giving themselves a much stronger and distinct world music flair. The drum patterns are more developed and sophisticated as well, the bass guitar is given more of the limelight with a more vibrant display, and this time around saxophone and flute are the main accompanying instruments, sharing the dominant spots in the arrangements with Manaf's deft hand at the guitar. Again with the guitar used in a more subtle manner, rarely, if ever, as utterly dominant as modern guitarists albums tend to be, due to the light, clean and elegant guitar sound that appears to be something of a specialty for this skilled guitarist. I also note that the compositions in this second half are of a much more harmonic nature in general, the expressive and experimental aspects of these creations fairly subdued, but with a wider range in terms of moods, atmospheres, pace and intensity. Several tracks feature a vocal presence, although not all that often regular lead vocals as such, and there's even a nice and unexpected venture into a subtly cosmic-tinged, mystical-sounding realm here on the fifth of the six parts that make up this second half of the album. As I'm not all that much of a jazz expert, I'll stress that these are my impressions and opinions based on the knowledge I have, which isn't all that extensive in the world of jazz. So those with a deeper knowledge of the genre are well advised to listen for themselves, as their impressions will most likely yield a much more detailed picture of events than what I'm able to produce for reasons stated. Besides that I note that this is a well produced album, and that, as far as I can tell, the performances from all the musicians involved are impeccable.
Conclusion. This self-titled international debut album by Tesla Manaf is one of those productions that merit the description as an album of two halves, where one is expressive, experimental and revolving around movements by two dominant instruments set inside a distinct jazz context, while the other has more of an Indonesian or world music sound blended in with a more harmonic type of jazz, where Manaf's guitar is mainly used in a light toned, subtle and elegant manner that points back to traditions stretching way back in time, perhaps as far back as the 40s. An elegant and sophisticated CD, and one that, first and foremost, will appeal to jazz enthusiasts, as I regard it, but with occasional compositions that may interest also those with a more defined taste towards jazz rock.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 21, 2015
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