Recently immersing myself in such exotic musics as Bergamot (the European violinist/keyboards duo, not the NYC pop twosome), Noura Mint Seymali and her wondrous guitarist husband (Jeiche Ould Chighaly), Embryo, and various other World-inflected fusioneers who have carried the torch over the last few decades, it was as though the deity Himself (or Herself or Itself or Themselves, take your pick) had smiled upon the critic's lot, ensuring simakDialog would rush up to ensure the real world could not crash in with its Lady Gagas, Madonnas, and Barry Manilows, would dispel the growing cynical suspicion that all is becoming a planetary Republican nightmare, indeed would administer a Ponce de Leonesque elixir breathing new life into growingly desperate ears. Aaaaaand that's exactly what the twofer Live at Orion heralds: a return to new variations on old forms, a timeless celebration of brains and fingers, a moveable feast of spirit and aesthetics.
Leader-keyboardist Riza Arshad, along with the celebrated guitarist Tohpati (Tohpati Ario Hutomo of Topati Bertiga [here] and solo Tohpati fame [here]), front the six-man ensemble simakDialog, half of it percussion, in both breezy and searing chopsfests often highly extended (This Spirit travels for 18 minutes, packing in entire spheres of vocabulary) in order to achieve maximum atmospherics, intense narrative discourse, and One has to Be follows course, commencing in an intriguingly sour intro that slowly resolves into a yoiks-the-hunt! olde English countryside, then transports to other dimensions from there, even unto Mahavishnu-esque terrain.
Arshad and Tohpati trail one another throughout the entire set of arcs, bassist Rudy Zulkaernaen squiggling about in the background as the percussive trio of Erlan Suwardama, Endang Ramden, and Cucu Kurnia create byways, thickets, and jungles just populous enough to be pronouncedly ambient while never overpowering anything. Lain Parantine contains one of those Jan Hammeresque passages wherein guitar and keyboard start changing roles and timbres, the sort of gig that takes us back to old Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon days and that we wish might be more prevalent today. And should I mention that this is the sort of music that used to flip our brainsockets back in the 70s and the dear old, not so clear old, oh Jesus is that a flying saucer acid-party days? No? It's too controversial? Okay, then I won't utter a syllable, but if you see your sons and daughters flipping out to such music while ingesting Xtasy, remember your own youth, and don't forget that I was the first to grin the news to ya. Relax, Republicans, yer already dead, and we're looking to the future.
(Oh, and Glenn Astarita's review over at AllAboutJazz is incorrect in disc 2's track listing: there aren't just three songs but four [see below]).
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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