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  MoonJune Lunar Update: Stardate 01.2016
Posted January 10, 2016
Greetings -- and "Happy 2016!" -- to all you fellow MoonJunistas out there! I know it has been eons, mucho light years, since our last transmission. We had a malfunction, and you simply would not believe how difficult it is to locate professional assistance in these remote locations. The lunar temp agency has apparently fallen on hard times, these days.

... but enough about issues. This is about a look back at another incredible year for independent progressive music, and, in that regard, it was a breakout, breakthrough, banner year for Leonardo P. and his eclectic label, MoonJune Records!

2015 has been, indeed, a banner year for MoonJune Records: one marked by powerful debuts and brilliant follow-ups, alike. It was a year that started strong, never looked back and just kept building momentum!

It began with the MJR debut of Yagull, "Kai." While the first Yagull album, 2013's well-received "Films," was essentially a solo effort (assisted by a pristine supporting cast) on the part of founder, Sasha Markovic, "Kai" saw the group expand to a duo at its core with the addition of Sasha's wife, the accomplished pianist, Kana Kamitsubo. The album was named after the couple's newly-born son and featured some stellar guest work from MoonJune artists, Dewa Budjana, Beledo and Marko Djordjevic. Solid work from the additional supporting cast made this album a solid initial effort for MJR.

Like its predecessor, the album was a moving, visceral effort, scoring exceptionally high marks with reviewers across the globe. Graceful, elegant -- unlike anything you'd expect from MoonJune, perhaps ... and a great way to get 2015 underway!

  Image: MJR artists, Yagull; album cover for MJR067, Kai.
Next up was the Indonesian psychedelic, jazz-with-a-twist legends, simakDialog, and their fabulous double-CD live performance documentary, "Live At Orion." Featuring their signature winding, adventurous exploits and some scintillating individual efforts, the band took their music to new heights.
Image: MoonJune artists, simakDialog; album cover: MJR068, Live at Orion.  
A guest appearance by MJR artist, Beledo, augmented the group's efforts in spectacular style, capping off a very special evening -- one that those in attendance still rave about!

For any of you who still have yet to see simakDialog live, it is hard to duplicate the experience with an audio recording. (... although this gem features sparkling production work; as clean and present as a live recording gets!) The level of communication at work between the musicians is something to behold, and the improvisations push the music beyond anything you will ever experience. Their trips to the US have become increasingly more frequent during their stay with the label, but they are still rare, very special occasions.

If they are ever anywhere near you, I highly recommend making the effort to catch them!

On the heels of simakDialog's first-ever live album was the monumental international self-titled debut of Tesla Manaf Effendi. His initial offering for MoonJune encompassed work he did in 2011, combined with his most recent creative work. The result was a stunning, critically-heralded album that signaled the arrival of a vital new voice in the annuls of jazz guitar; his brilliance and originality as a composer sharing equal billing.
With Tesla just having turned 27, this past year, he is poised for great things. His music is most unique, vibrant -- unencumbered by preconception or traditions, and bubbling with brilliance!

One of the fascinating things about the album, for me, was Leonardo P's decision to re-present his 2011 album, together with his sparkling 2014 album ("A Man's Relationship With His Fragile Area"). One the second half of the album -- his output from 2011 (recorded when he was just 22 years old) -- you can hear the powerful influence that the great Pat Metheny had on Tesla. The newer material has a completely different focus: one which finds Tesla more focused one the compositional aspect of his creativity and musical expression. The result is a greater group dynamic and a more focused direction.

  Image: MoonJune Records recording artist. Tesla Manaf; cover: album MJR069, Tesla Manaf.
The level of maturity is both his playing and composing during that three-year gap is simply remarkable -- but you already know that! (If you don't, then you should have this gem in your collection!! ... you can listen to audio samples and PURCHASE YOUR COPY HERE!)

Image: MoonJune Records artist, Dewa Budjana; cover: album MJR070, Hasta Karma.  
With the new year already in high gear, the stage was set for the release of Indonesian master guitarist, composer and producer, Dewa Budjana, and his fourth solo album for MoonJune, "Hasta Karma."

The album received rave reviews around the world, with soaring compositions and ingenious arrangements -- beautifully interpreted and articulately expressed by the brilliant core group of Budjana, NY legend, Joe Locke, on vibraphone, and the Pat Metheny Unity Group's core foundation of the inspiring Ben Williams on upright bass, and the otherworldly timekeeping of the great Antonio Sanchez.

The album represents Budjana's strongest work to date: progressive jazz that's as majestic and regal as it was warm, intimate and personal.

In several months time, the new album by Dewa Budjana, "Zentuary," will be released. The album was recorded in January of 2015, and features a marquee list of legends: jazz's iconic timekeeper, Jack DeJohnette; progressive bassist and stick player, the great Tony Levin, and; the veteran drummer / keyboardist (Allan Holdsworth; John McLaughlin), UK great, Gary Husband!

Image: Dewa Budjana, Zentuary promotional ad.

MoonJunistas were still reveling when Leonardo Pavkovic unveiled the year's next profound surprise: the MJR debut of UK virtuoso guitarist, Mark Wingfield.

Presented in a trio format -- featuring the radiant, sensitive support work of fellow UK transplants, bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer Asaf Sirkus -- "Proof of Light" trumpeted the arrival of another truly world-class guitarist and composer to the MoonJune fold. Mark's approach to expression on guitar is radically innovative, carrying the electric guitar to bold, exciting and previously unreachable pinnacles.

Image: MoonJune Records artist, Mark Wingfield. Album: Proof of Light.

One of the year's high points for me, personally, was having the honor and privilege of conducting an interview with Mark. After more than 40 years of playing the electric guitar, myself, his incredible responses blew me away -- making me rethink my whole perspective of the process of creating guitar tone!

Critics around the world were virtually unanimous is their high praise for this spellbinding effort. It and "Hasta Karma" were two truly world-class, profound releases, I thought. I still believe that their efforts have raised the bar for both MoonJune, as a record company, and all of their fellow artists within the label's ranks!

Next up was the eagerly awaited follow-up from Ligro, the free-form powerhouse trio spearheaded by Indonesian guitarist extraordinaire, Agam Hamzah. "Dictionary 3" was as staggering in its delivery and it was in its ambition, as fans witnessed the band push its music -- and any semblance of musical boundaries! -- to even greater heights.

Highlighted by the sometimes-explosive, sometimes-syncopated, but always highly engaging rhythms of renowned players, master bassist, Adi Darmawan (one of the Indonesia's busiest and most in-demand bass players) and legendary drummer, Gusti Hendy (of the Indonesian mega pop-rock sensation Gigi), the album never lets up with wave after wave of crescendoing brilliance!

This amazing, far-reaching album also featured the masterful production skills of Mark Wingfield.
  Image: MoonJune artists, Ligro. Cover: album Dictionary 3.

This gem was followed by another -- one of equally high aspirations, courage and zeal: the debut of Catalan drummer, Xavi Reija, and Serbian guitarist, Dusan Jevtovic's XADU.

Image: MoonJune Records artists, XADU; album cover: Random Abstract.  
The appropriately titled "Random Abstract" was a bold, profound exploration into minimalism and spontaneous interaction: exploring the vast purlieu of musical expression, while empathically dismissing preconceptions and embracing the magic of the moment at hand.

These two highly-regarded European sonic pioneers collaborated previously on Xavi's exotic 2014 MoonJune debut -- the well-received, Resolution (MJR062) -- which served as a launching pad, of sorts, for this avant garde "painting with sound" approach to making music. This is a music where listening is at least as important as playing, and where exploration of mood and sound textures often override structural, melodic and harmonic considerations; a most innovative, fearless approach to making music.

Innovative, profoundly creative progressive music was indeed a reoccurring theme for 2015. Rounding out the year in fine style, were two more fabulous efforts! The long-awaited veteran effort from the Italian prog virtuosos, Slivovitz: the magnificent "All You Can Eat," and; still another stellar MoonJune debut: from Indonesian maestro keyboardist and composer, Dwiki Darmawan, with his critically-hailed album, "So Far So Close."

For those of you who may have thought Slivovitz had reached their peak with 2011's epic, Bani Ahead (MJR039), you are in for a most pleasant surprise! The album finds the band pushing their ensemble format, and each other, to even greater heights -- with brilliant compositions, dense, intricate arrangements and emotion-drenched solos of the highest order.

I must confess that I was really looking forward to hearing this release, as I was one of the fans who was of a 'there's no way they can top "Bani Ahead"' mindset! This album is beyond excellence that can be expressed by my words; it is a superlative, exquisite album ... and it really does exceed 'Bani;' the band sounds even more cohesive. (... if that's even possible!)

Musically, Pietro and cohorts demonstrate, in most convincing fashion, that there is very little which falls beyond their scope!

  Image: MoonJune Records artists, Slivovitz; album cover: All You Can Eat.
Closing out a stellar year of great releases was the wonderful debut of Dwiki Dharmawan. So Far So Close was a rip-roaring, 'full speed ahead' fusion album that rekindled those magical feelings listeners savored back in the mid to late '70's -- at least the ones who were around then!

Supported by an all-star cast of smokin' hot players -- featuring fusion and progressive rock luminaries, Chad Wackerman, Jimmy Haslip, (and fellow MoonJune artists and Indonesian giants) Dewa Budjana and Tohpati, and Mahavisnu Orchestra veteran, the legendary violinist, Jerry Goodman -- Dwiki and his friends sound like they're having the time of their lives, while delivering a powerful effort. Strong themes, beatifully shining moments and ingenous improvisations abound in a session that leaves you wanting more!

Image: MoonJune Records artist, Dwiki Dharmawan; album cover: So Far So Close.  
For any of you who may be unfamiliar with him, Dwiki Dharnawan is an Indonesian icon -- a true cultural ambassador, and a luminous keyboardist and composer. He is also an event organizer, and a man not afraid to grab the reins and go when there is a cause for which he is passionate.

Dwiki is well-known and -loved throughout his native country. It is with the greatest honor and pleasure that MoonJune presents this magnificent maestro.

So Far So Close," is reminiscent of fusion's 'golden years;' a time when deft compositions were on equal footing with unbridled improvisations and a zealous creative spark. All in all, it's a powerful debut and showcases the genre in manner which is both supreme and refreshingly accessible.

Later this year, MJR will release Dwiki's next album, Pasar Klewer -- a monumental, double-disc
release -- recorded in London and featuring the likes of fellow MoonJune veterans Mark Wingfield, Nicolas Meier (who also has a MoonJune debut on tap for 2016!), Yaron Stavi, Asaf Sirkis and more.

Indeed, 2015 has been one incredibly fun, adventurous ride! We would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you -- for your support of great, independent progressive music, and the wonderful, incredibly-gifted artists that MoonJune is so ver pleased to present. Without your continued support, this would not be possible ... thank you!

Stay tuned, as 2016 is already shaping up to be an equally enthralling high-speed thrill ride!!


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