Bubi Is Jazz

Posted: Januari 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Jazz is a Bubi Chen’s world. I think Bubi was born to jazz music. Close to five decades, Bubi’s blood and wills is still jazz. It’s an amazing persistence and consistency, and non-negotiable, Bubi is jazz. In my perspective, besides Midas, King of Phrygia in Greek mythology, Bubi Chen touches of his fingertips could change everything into gold. Any kind of music that touched by Bubi turned into jazz. When he had the collaboration with the traditional musicians of West Java, Bubi also gave the sense of jazz. Even when Doel Sumbang to Padi bands invited him to collaborate on their album, Bubi fingers that were dancing on piano keys still gave a sense of jazz. Not many musicians are brave enough to make sure jazz as a choice for their life. In this country we could find many jazz musicians who also play another genre to survive.Bubi Chen, who studied jazz in autodidactic, he never stop playing jazz. His fingers keep on rolling over the piano keys, only jazz and jazz. Just check out, how Bubi Chen interprets various elements of music like classical, pop, and ethnical into the room of jazz that he built.When he was 12 years old, he messed the classical repertoire up, from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Ludwig von Beethoven, turned into jazz. All of that music was free from the tradition of classical music which always obeys the rules. In 40-years career in the world of recording, Bubi has arranged so many pop songs into the repertoire of jazz.

Starting from the album Bila Ku Ingat Bubi Chen with Strings (Irama’s production, 1969), together with Mus Mualim as a music director and Shimponi Radio Jakarta Orchestra, to the series of his albums in the late of 1990s such as the Virtuoso (Legend Records, 1995) or What A Wonderful World (Sangaji Music, 1999) or his latest album in 2010 The Many Colours Of Bubi Chen” who interpret the library of rock in the mirror of jazz. Then look at the back cover of the album Bila Ku Ingat, the late Mus Mualim write comments about Bubi Chen’s musicality: The perfect pianist, both in speed and power of his fingers as well as the composition of a progressive and modern improvisation. He is a neat and carefully pianist.”

No wonder if in the decade of the 60’s, there was so many people comparing Bubi Chen’s performance with Art Tatum, American jazz pianist who plays Swing, Stride, and Boogie Woogie with the extraordinary complexity and speed of the fingers. Obviously, Bubi Chen is more accurately described as an interpreter of jazz. Every song that was interpreted by Bubi always possessed the spirit of jazz which give a new and fresh impression. Every song which arranged by Bubi is like someone who wearing a new clothes. Bubi was good at stirring the audience’s hearts, start with gentle ambience and unexpected crossing to an aggressive temperament. No exaggeration to mention that Bubi’s game is like a ripple of human life.

Fortunately Bubi has chosen jazz, because with improvisation, jazz could break through and infiltrate into the other musical aesthetic zone. What is noteworthy is when Tony Scott, American clarinet blower who invite Indonesian All Stars jazz group, which is consists of Bubi Chen (piano, harp), Maryono (vocals, flute, tenor saxophone), Benny Mustafa (drums), Jopie Chen (bass ), and Jack Lesmana (guitar), they record the album Djanger Bali (Saba production/ MPS, 1967) in Germany. Although he presents some repertoire of our country such as Burung Kakatua, Djanger Bali, Ilirilir, or Ki Nartosabdo’s Gambang Suling, the album which got a good response from the international jazz was not using the gamelan instruments at all, even the ambience of Bali and Java infiltrate in their performance. For example, Jack Lesmana manipulates the character of gamelan through his guitar touches. And so Bubi does the similar things in his piano performance, except for Gambang Suling song, which explores Bubi’s lute performace. Uniquely, the songs of George Gershwin, Summertime, has been played with Sundanese gamelan treatment.

The other collaborations has been taken by Bubi was he recorded his album in America (Audio Hidayat, 1984) with Albert “Tootie” Heath, jazz drummer who once supported Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon, and Yusef Lateef, and also bassist John Heard who had supported The Count Basie Orchestra, Louie Bellson and the Oscar Peterson. The recording which took place in Pasadena, California, was playing genre Be Bop and Hard Bop by Miles Davis to Sonny Rollins. This is not the only unforgettable part for Bubi Chen’s musical journey, but also a special entry in the history of jazz music in Indonesia. Collaboration across the nation is still remain to be done, for example when releasing Virtuoso album, which supported by jazz musician from Australia, Singapore and the Philippines.

From that notes, implied that Bubi Chen is a musician who likes to talk. He has a dialogue with international jazz musicians, dialogue with different generations of musicians, and also dialogue with other genres besides jazz. And the Midas is back to flick his fingers over the piano keys. Be the jazz, jazz, and jazz. Fortunately, Bubi Chen’s musical journey has been recorded accurately in this book. This is the documentary which will be known by next generation. The history of Indonesian music also noted that Bubi is jazz itself.


Denny Sakrie, Music Observer


Bubi Chen


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