Tohpati: Tribal Dance (featuring Jimmy Haslip and Chad Wackerman)
  • Composition
  • Musicianship
  • Production
  • Originality
  • All-star Trio

You know your album’s no joke when it features such world class players like Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip; Tohpati’s recent release, “Tribal Dance,” is no exception. Once again Tohpati delivers an interesting take on east meets west, creating a  space where  great jazz fusion collides with Indonesian influences for a successful body of music.

After a brief intro of chaotic ethnic chanting, Tohpati wastes no time in diving into the album with a central motif based around 16th note runs whose ending segment get beefed up through the fantastic Jimmy Haslip’s unison basslines. From here we move into a chunky chord theme that’s a straight up rocker, followed by the 16th note melodies again, followed by a repeat of the chord theme spun out in a lighter, more jazz oriented direction. From here we get a sort of bridge to the solo section where the drums and bass slow down, Wackerman focusing on light, but powerful grooves while Tohpati goes at it with with strange guitar effects before moving towards a solo full of really cool, uncoventional phrasing and well-placed insertion of effects, all the while Wackerman and Haslip slowly build the rhythm section towards an intense climax. The return to the main theme comes at just the right time and the band carries us to the end of a great album opener. The followup, “Spirit of Java,” offers quite a nice change of pace. This piece is characterized by it’s ethnic percussion and slow and steady pace which perfectly augments an extremely dark eastern melody that is made absolutely haunting through reverb and effects. The middle section does cause me a bit of mixed-feelings though when a funky riff seems to come out of nowhere, feeling a bit out of place. What perhaps saves it in the end is a sudden storm of Tohpati’s guitar wizardry followed by a brief Wackerman solo that transitions the drum part perfectly into a powerful ending featuring the picturesque theme from the start of the song perfectly placed alongside Chad’s wonderful improvisations on the kit.

The title track, “Tribal Dance,” features some spacey ambient chords interspersed with light jazzy sections where Wackerman can really throw down some delicate playing, but the true highlight of the song is Jimmy Haslip’s beautiful solo that’s full of flair. Next up is “Red Mask,” a more conventional sounding fusion track, followed by “Savana,” a gorgeous solo guitar piece that’s propelled forward by heavenly guitar effects. Later on, “Supernatural” offers us one of the more complex servings from the Indonesian guitar legend and world class rhythm duo, spinning time-signature changes around left and right and delivering everything from ethnic-tinged fusion runs to chunky prog-metal-esque riffing. Wackerman’s sudden drum solo is, like always, both clever and powerful, and the exit from the solo to the main melody is menacing and urgent, making “Supernatural” a track to not be overlooked. 

Tohpati closes the album off in a personal way, presenting “Midnight Rain” as a guitar only composition. The bluesy licks over a canvas of serene chord changes, blips, harmonics, and arpeggiator like guitar effects make this a track that looks both towards the past and the future simultaneously. Surely this session with rhythm masters Chad Wackman and Jimmy Haslip features some of the coolest moments of Tohpati’s career, and undoubtedly Tohpati’s composition, musicianship, and performance on Tribal Dance shows him to be of the same high caliber of the aforementioned jazz giants. If you’re new to Tohpati, this is a great place to start; if you’re a long time fan, Tribal Dance will surely find a warm place in your collection. 

“Rahwana,” live session in the studio