Be prepared to be stunned and amazed with “Chapter One,” the debut CD of the Indonesian band I Know You Well Miss Clara. Aside from Japan, Indonesia may very well be the most educated Asian nation regarding Western music and culture. This album proves that point with every bar and on every track.
The surprising influence of progressive rock and jazz fusion are combined to create a delight for the hearer. While catching glimpses of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever, there is also a shocking representation of King Crimson or Focus or Caravan, among others.
I Know You Miss Clara was founded in 2009 by Reza Ryan when the others were all still in music school in Jakarta. The name of the band was actually taken from the title of a song which has now become entitled “Conversation.” The band had been a rehearsal-only band, according to Reza as stated in the liner notes. Upon taking a gig at a music festival, however, the band needed a name for themselves. Keyboardist Adi Wajiya and bassist Enriko Gultom thought that the song title would be a great band name. And I agree.
The album begins with “Open the Door, See the Ground,” composed by Adi Wijaya and Reza Ryan. Immediately one senses a whiff of John McLaughlin. Reza calls himself a “technical but also sloppy” guitarist which is belied by the tightness of the band and his own craftiness.
Wajiya (keyboards) screams of Joe Zawinul while Enriko Gultom (bass) and Alfiah Akbar (drums) contribute a rhythm section as steady and innovative as almost anything heard from John Wetton and Bill Bruford.
The song opens with a mysterious melancholy until Gultom and Akbar propel the pace into something out of Weather Report. But enough of the comparisons and influences...for the moment. Reza turns on the heat until the piece closes as it began with the mystery brought on by Wajiya’s minor 2nd interval on the left hand.
The second track is now titled “Conversation” (Ryan Reza, composer) which was once titled what is now the band’s name. The causal electric piano opening creates an open-air feel that is used by all the musicians in an unforced way to create slow beauty. “Conversation” could well be the description of the dialogue between piano and guitar with suitable additions from the bass and drums.
It is at this point that the listener is amazed to recall that this is a debut album from a band only four years old. This sounds like the product of years of musical association.
“Pop Sick Love Carousel” (Wajiya, Ryan, Gultom, co-writers) may be the coolest recollection of the band U.K. ever heard. The strolling rhythm and delicate bass and Holdsworth-esque guitar causes one to reflect on just what sort of listening experience these guys must have had growing up. So creative, so passionate, so energetic, a band like I Know You Well Miss Clara brings fresh life to a genre that had been almost disregarded.
Leonardo Pavkovic of MoonJune Records declared that when he first heard “Reverie #2” (Ryan Reza, composer) it reminded him of Jan Akkerman’s work with Focus and he is exactly right. Ironically, Reza confesses to never having listened to Focus before. This track is one of the most rewarding on the whole album of extremely rewarding music.
Akbar’s hypnotic time-keeping allows Reza’s reverie to explore sound and texture in the broadest possible way. Wajiya’s electric piano creates watercolor movement and blurred detail in ways befitting Chick Corea. I love this track.
The most emotional piece on the album follows in the song “Love Letter from Canada” (Ryan Reza, composer). The title and atmosphere of the number creates the very image of longing and sadness. The broad chords of the keyboard and swirling cymbals portray a haunting sense of absence.
This is followed by “Dangerous Kitchen” wherein the band turns towards almost straight-up Jazz—certainly more so here than on any other piece on the album. This is most certainly due to the inclusion of Nicholas Combe on sax. The guitar creates a more somber sound in collaboration with the tight work of the band and the cool rhythm section. The result is an extraordinary work of Jazz.
“A Dancing Girl from the Planet Marsavishnu Named After Love” (Ryan Reza, composer) employs quirky progressions that pave the way for Wajiya’s spacey keyboards. Again the band is joined by Nicholas Combe’s sax playing opposite Reza’s gentle guitar and the inevitable result is enthralling and intriguing.
Reza Ryan’s vision for the band and adventurous approach to the music allows him to craft a mature discipline that shapes the band into something even greater than the sum of its parts. However, each musician contributes uniquely to the whole and the loss or replacement of any one of them would pull loose a thread from this exquisite tapestry that they have woven together.
Leonardo Pavkovic and MoonJune Records have done the Jazz world a great service by introducing this band to the rest of the world.
Perhaps the most exciting element of this album is the fact that it is entitled “Chapter One” with more chapters to follow in this wonderful book that we cannot put down.
This CD can be purchased at: moonjune.com
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