As I was about to board the plane on Thursday, intending to make a surprise visit to my beloved one, I was approached by a fellow passenger, asking if I went to Jakarta for Java Jazz Festival or not.
I was startled.
Apparently, the buzz has traveled further than anyone would think of, and it deservedly received so. This 3-day music festival had such an amazing line-up that would make any music aficionado drowned in jealousy had they missed the festival.
Angie Stone? Check.
Jeff Lorber? Check.
Tania Maria? Check.
Laura Fygi? Check.
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul? Check.
Eric Benet? Check.
George Duke? Check.
Lizz Wright? Check.
Those are just to name a few out of many aspiring thespians, and in fact, hidden treasures being kept for too long and about to discover, again.
And that’s exactly what I have come to realize upon spending one cloudy day of that eventful Sunday at Jakarta Convention Center (JCC): discovery.
My musical wandering began at Plenary Hall to see Elfa’s Children Choir and Elfa’s Jazz & Pop Singers performing. From what had initially been a mere additional of my already-established plan turned out to be a big surprise of the day. The choir did swing the hall down!
Tipped my hat off to Elfa Secioria for maintaining his sharp intuition and magic in creating an ensemble of singers united through harmonious voices, the choir performed well despite the huge venue that would have been drowned their performance. We saw the otherwise obviously, thanks to their relaxed, sweet and demure singings that one might keep wondering, how they could maintain their cuteness as children while belting out the standards? Ask Elfa whose pride on his face is one thing he could not hide in that afternoon.
The follow-up by the adult ones, while still good at their own terms, provide lack of fresh interpretation of pop hits they were singing. Often I could not help seeing them as typical groups performing at cafes or restaurants singing Top-40 Hits. Certainly the last song you want to hear in such a prestigious event like this would be the likes of “This Love” by Maroon 5! Worse, their effort to communicate with audience fell flat when they said in English, “Our next song is a happy song, and I hope you can find some happiness around when you listen to this song.”
They sang “Lately” from Stevie Wonder.
Exactly as somber as the original version is.
Enough of this, my next target is to catch Deodato even for one or two songs. Unfairly placed on a smaller Assembly Hall, the room was still packed with audience who were obviously put under their spell, especially in a surprisingly down-toned finale that seemed to give their whole performance that afternoon an anti-climax ending.
Next is Eric Benet.
Hardly qualified as a jazz singer though, Benet suffers from his too-much talk to audience, who were mostly women being wooed by his suave manner. However, that charming performance does not lift up a laid-back atmosphere he unintentionally created through his slow-tempo songs, and without any uplifting moves he showed on the stage, by any means it was hardly any surprise most people chose to stick to their seats to sleep, or simply, walked out to see other more interesting performances. Some came back though, when this dreary show was redeemed when he performed “India”, named after his daughter, in a quiet manner that actually left audience feeling touched.
And how contrast it was to see the next line-up: Angie Stone!
The moment she stood up on the stage wearing a bright pink blouse and skirt, she marched and commandeered the audience to groove along with her for the next 60-minute of what I’d like to call as the most energized and fully recharged performance of the day. Belting and screaming out her soulful songs, she gave a perfect control of her pitch, never gone off-key despite sweaty shakes of her body which just inspired the whole house to rock with her. We just could not get enough of her, but after an hour ends, she knew that she had to pave the stage to the highlight of the festival:
So much so needed to be done to prepare his showcase, at the expense of the delay for about two hours, leaving people queuing outside Plenary Hall for a little almost two hours. Yet, the wait was worth the wait.
Already in his 70s, having recently survived surgeries of his ailing illness, one can only wonder: can he still groove?
The answer I saw was a full-pledged performance that stretched for a little over 2 hours, and while it was apparent that Brown limited his moves to minimum, yet audience was still thrilled to see the way he swung the microphone stand, the way his walks inspired Michael Jackson to create his Moonwalk, and the surprisingly entertaining band who does really excel in bringing up the mood of the whole show. Yet, some scantily-clad dancers perhaps way too much of a show, especially when I saw some kids who might be best at their first grade of junior-high attended this concert with their parents. Nice effort, folks!
There it was, “Living in America” and “I Feel Good” put a different touch of soulful tunes to this long-awaited Jazz Festival, which surely has quenched the thirst of jazz lovers throughout the region. Set aside the delays, the traffic jam, the inadequacy of some crews in handling customers’ queries, I keep looking forward to this event next year.
Alas, going for a supper of nasi uduk in Kota afterwards could not be more fruitful.