Even before Al McKay and the Earth Wind & Fire Experience had closed Saturday’s event, amid a crescendo of rapturous applause many had begun to reflect not just on the day’s jazz, funk and soul, but upon the many other gigs that had been part of the very first Bali Live international jazz festival.
Who was the best? Who had been performing real jazz? Would it happen again next year? The chatter was incessant.
With all the big names on show, it might be a surprise that, from a personal viewpoint, the performance, indeed the moment, of the week was seeing the Mexican drummer Israel Varela’s incredible drum solo sometime in the early afternoon while he was playing with the talented Indonesian pianist, Nita Aartsen.
Earlier, Varela had come across as a softly spoken, perhaps shy, gentleman, but as the band played to a sparse early afternoon crowd, those braving the hot sun discovered that this was a cunning ruse, for lurking within Varela is a beast of exceptional talent, who plays with passion and raw energy. He is a tiger, and the pairing with Aartsen and her fabulous band was a surely match made in music heaven. Performances such as these are one reason why it pays to try and see all the performers and not just the big acts at any music festival.
All of the artists contributed significantly, but a very special mention must go out the truly incredible Jim Larkin, celebrating his 79th birthday high on the Taman Bhagawan stage. His Saucy Soul Band, composed of some fantastic local musicians, was superb and provided a nostalgic link back to the music pioneered by people like James Brown.
From a local perspective, Rio Sidik and Saharadja continue to grow in stature, Nancy Ponto and the Soul Brothers impressed once again and, of course, one of Indonesia’s most gifted guitarists, Balawan, showed exactly why he commands such respect.
As the afternoon sun began to cast its warm shadows, Tania Maria made a soulful appearance and, continuing the Latin theme, was followed by the infectious Estaire Godinez featuring Stokely.
While Maria was graceful, commanding and reflective as she played some of her most poignant hits to an adoring audience, Godinez’s performance was a supercharged high voltage frolic. Her interplay with bassist D Notes Harris was a joy to see, full of drama and humor and, as darkness descended, it was obvious the party had officially started.
Of the impressive lineup, Incognito and The Earth Wind & Fire Experience performed with the same glitz and style they had shown at the Hard Rock Café and Mozaic Beachclub respectively earlier in the week. Both were highly entertaining and proved hugely popular, banging out hit after hit that had the crowd singing, dancing and shouting for more.
Omar had performed beautifully on Tuesday at the Jazz Café, but that is a small, intimate venue and some had wondered how well he would transfer to the bigger festival stage. To answer this, he produced a fabulous set blending his new and old material and gave a performance that clearly surpassed the expectations of many within the audience, not previously exposed to his unique sound and style. Perhaps the man dubbed the father of British neo soul has taken a major step into the massive Indonesian market?
From the outside looking in, the event appeared to be a success. It was, however, not without its glitches, but these will no doubt be reviewed and the lessons learnt.
The final word should rightfully be reserved for all the artists, who on Saturday came together at a superb venue to provide some seriously funky entertainment for a very privileged, knowledgeable and appreciative audience: Bali Live 2015? Bring it on