Hailing from Indonesia, SimakDialog is one of the best jazz-rock bands on the planet and this two-CD live set proves it. This performance features virtuosic playing from lead guitarist Tohpati and electric-piano master Riza Arshad, along with bass and three percussionists playing traditional instruments.
If you didn’t know better, you might think this is a vintage fusion record from 1972, as there’s thankfully no synthesizers and the playing is honest and spirited.
For guitar nuts, Tohpati solos brilliantly, playing dizzying unison lines with Arshad’s piano – more impressive when you learn it’s performed entirely from memory.
“Throwing Words” and “Stepping In” will bring to mind Bitches Brew-era Miles or early Return to Forever with funky grooves and extended Strat improvisations. Another likeable trait is that Tohpati doesn’t ratchet up the overdrive and shred like so many other fusion players; instead, he uses a lighter gain or a pitch shifter to deliver lines with taut phrasing and complex chord tensions.
For pure guitar thrills, guitarist Beledo guests on “5,6” and both he and Tohpati whip up an inferno of hot improv.
Throughout this set, SimakDialog proves that it’s an instrumental-based band with few equals.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’15 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.