Live at the Jazzschool - Featuring Gamelan Compositions and Suling Improvisations by Burhan Sukarma
Public response to Pusaka Sunda’s first two gamelan degung CDs (Lolongkrang and Samagaha) has been enthusiastic, and fans have been clamoring for a new recording for some time. In fact, the group has been working on producing a third CD for several years, dutifully learning and rehearsing Burhan’s new compositions, trudging to the studio to lay down tracks, and carefully isolating instruments to facilitate subtle adjustments to the mix.
Sadly, the results of these formal recording sessions never quite met Burhan’s exacting expectations, although he couldn’t quite articulate the reasons why. One day, as he reviewed the routine recordings from Pusaka Sunda’s annual concerts at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, California, however, he finally heard what he was missing. The Jazzschool’s intimate performance space provided precisely the right combination of wonderful acoustics, a friendly and knowledgeable audience, and a relaxed and inviting atmosphere to nurture the kind of communal music-making that is the soul of degung. And Lee Brenkman’s sensitive approach to recording live jazz events captured this spirit. Burhan decided to scuttle the hours of sterile studio recordings in favor of the best performances from these live shows.
Fans of Burhan Sukarma know that he is at his best when improvising in front of an audience. The members of Pusaka Sunda, who rehearse with Burhan on a regular basis, have become almost complacent to his beautiful playing. But even they are astonished over and over again by the sheer brilliance of what emerges from Burhan’s tiny bamboo flute in the context of live performances. (Some of the musicians have been known to be so caught up in the rapture that they neglect their own parts!)