Agam Hamzah

All posts tagged Agam Hamzah

When I was at uni., a fellow student (Hi, Bob) was learning classical guitar. While others were raving about Hendrix, I would be sat at Bob’s feet. Discounting the descant recorder, on which I was really proficient as an elementary school pupil, I’ve never mastered a musical instrument. However, apart from jazz, my favourite genre is the classical guitar, and I’ve sat in bliss at concerts by Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream (interview), and John Williams (interview).

I got to recognise many ‘classic’ classical compositions by Isaac Albeniz, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Malcolm Arnold et al . But there’s been just one constant since then: the composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 – 1999). His 1939 composition Concierto de Aranjuez is arguably one of the most popular concertos of all time, thanks in no small measure to the extraordinary beauty of its central Adagio, which has been arranged for everything from mouth organ to brass band (video).

Rodrigo wrote: “I heard a voice inside me singing the entire theme of the Adagio at one go, without hesitation.”

The first version I heard, and bought, was by Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes.

What can I say about Narciso Yepes? What can I say about the guitarist to whom we owe the international success of the Concerto de Aranjuez? Yes, it was in Paris in 1947 where Ataulfo Argenta, Yepes and the Spanish National Orchestra met to illuminate my unique opus at a time when no one knew its true future. From then on, the Concierto de Aranjuez took on a new nature, and it is for this same reason that I am grateful to Narciso Yepes for the fruit of an intense collaboration that has brought us to travel our musical trajectories side-by-side. I will not say that Yepes was the best nor the worst. He has simply been my guitarist par excellence. My guitarist.”
(Joaquin Rodrigo in ‘El Mundo’ May 4, 1997)

There can be few who haven’t heard Adagio and been moved. Jazz fans probably have Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain and Jim Hall’s Concierto, but may not have heard the versions by Dorothy Ashby, MJQ, Jan Akkerman with Niels Henning Orsted Pederson on bass. Or by Indonesia’s Agam Hamzah and Ade Irawan (here – video)

There are seven tracks in today’s compilation from the IndoJazzia archives including alternate takes of the Miles Davis classic: download from here or here..


First, a mini review of  the  launch of Erik Sondhy’s album of solo piano improvisations, Abbey Road Sessions, Vol.1, last Thursday (30th June) at Paviliun 28 in south Jakarta.


Many familiar faces, and a few new ones helped set the mood for Erik’s showcase. His album is familiar, after all it’s the first on the IndoJazzia label and why we were at the gig.  He introduced each number, but once he became immersed in his keyboard, he/we discovered hidden depths to his muse. This writer, also of the album’s sleeve notes, realised that Vol.1 is intensely autobiographical, and Erik is without doubt a major talent.

[Note: Vol.1 is getting radio airplay in the USA, France and Japan, and All About Jazz, the major jazz website, will be posting the track ‘Hope’ as their Download of the Day. We’ll let you know on our Facebook page when that happens.]

Once his well-appreciated, absorbing set had finished, the regular Thursday night jam session began. Agam Hamzah, the guitar maestro in Ligro, is the coordinator-curator and quickly demonstrated his affinity with Erik, so much so that the floated notion of recording together may yet became a reality.

And then Nesia Ardi, a pint-sized bundle of energy, took the microphone and we were ‘wowed’. A powerful voice, clear diction, yet with scatting and varied phrasing, a familiar song such as Route 66 became much more than a karaoke cliché. The synergy with Erik and Agam produced a memorable performance, one which involved all of us.

She told IndoJazzia that for her “singing jazz is a passion, I don’t expect many people to buy my CD or pay a lot of money to see me singing; the only thing I really want is just to sing, not to impress but to touch and move people’s hearts because that’s what jazz does to me.”

We have chosen a video of a recent performance she gave in Jakarta. The sound quality and camera work is poor, yet there is a quality about her talent which shines through. She says that “it is my original composition with the chord progression commonly known as a 12 bar blues. I put new melodies and lyrics on it.”


*In depth analysis/rant is here.