Last year, when MoonJune label owner Leo Pavkovic was in town to attend the studio sessions that resulted in this Tohpati solo CD, I got ahold of him and was thence informed of the impending gig. He let me know that the prodigious Indonesian guitar player would be in trio format with Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip, two of the more formidable L.A. session guyz, but I thought "Hmmm, obviously this will be a fusion disc, but…in just what fashion, I wonder?" The tone of that perception should indicate something less than a 100% confidence it might yield what I'd perhaps want. Well, Tribal Dance is now out and more fool me for having doubted for a second that it would be anything other than a showcase of fiery chops and dynamic writing. I'm rather bowled over by what's to be found.
Spirit of Java, for instance, is highly reminiscent of John McLaughlin's old chestnut Dragon-Rider, a cut still treasured, lo these many years later, by progfusionficionados, though Topati's song is slower paced and more magisterial than Johnny's hellfire and energetic power chords. There are no ballads in Tribal Dance, by the way. It's all funk, burning fretwork, skinspounding, careening energies, and gritty determination. Haslip turns in some of the most impressive work of an already illustrious career, and Wackermen's on the dime, twisting every which way, filling up all the nooks and crannies left by the two axehandlers. Laybacks decelerate to offset the prolific incendiary modes, but they're always in context with predominant vigors and urges only barely banked until the next explosion of dexterities. Hell, even Popeye makes a guest appearance in the intro to Supernatural just before the ignition switch is yanked and the jet engines fire up once again.
There's a hell of a lot of Allan Holdsworth, Shangrenade era and Pure Food & Drug Act Harvey Mandel, later McLaughlin, Jukka Tolonen, interesting flavors of Jeff Beck's too short You Had It Coming slice-time, X-Legged Sally, and many others, but the main thing is that the youthful Tohpati has shown in this release that the elder virtues are in no danger of extinction any time soon and that his own prowess only increases yearly, in and out of home base, the equally impressive simakDialog…from whom Pavkovic has promised a double-live CD in Sept., mouths across the planet watering at the prospect. If you're finding that caffeine jes' ain't doin' the trick any more, and the local store just ran out of Red Bull, then grab this CD, throw it in the player, and get ready to start bouncing off the walls without the chemical stimulation.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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