Billy Bang: Configuration & Vietnam: Reflections

Jeff Stockton By

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Sirone/Bang Ensemble

The recently reactivated Swedish Silkheart label boasts of its track record for discovering and nurturing noteworthy young drummers, and it's found another one in Tyshawn Sorey. Recorded live at CB's Gallery in New York, the drummer opens this fabulous one-off (so far) with the first of a series of solos by each member of the Ensemble, a warm up for them and the listener. Sorey bashes it out on "Freedom Flexibility and funks it up in tandem with Sirone's thick bass on "Configuration.

Taking inspiration from Sorey, saxophonist Charles Gayle (on alto) shows a wider stylistic range than his reputation might allow, alternately restrained, mournful, bar-walking, and overtly Ayler-esque, while Bang's solos sound like damp skin peeling off a leather car seat in August. He and Gayle come at their solos at an angle, as if they want to chop the melody down before pushing it upright again. Sirone may get top billing with Bang, but Gayle and his horn challenge the violinist for musical supremacy.

Billy Bang
Vietnam: Reflections
Justin Time

Bang's Vietnam: Reflections, the follow-up to 2001's much acclaimed Vietnam: The Aftermath, is brimming with subtext, as Bang, trumpeter Ted Daniel, drummer Michael Carvin, percussionist Ron Brown, and conductor Butch Morris, all military veterans, are joined by John Hicks on piano and Curtis Lundy on bass to explore their memories of the war and the changes that have occurred over thirty-plus years at home and abroad. Unlike its haunted predecessor, Bang's compositions here are pastoral, evoking traditional Asian melodies, and are interspersed with Vietnamese songs played and sung by Nanh Thanh Ngo (Vietnamese dulcimer) and Co Boi Nguyen (voice). This music elicits Bang's most lyrical playing, particularly with guests James Spaulding (flute) and Henry Threadgill (alto), and the great John Hicks as musically articulate as ever. Open-hearted, spiritually generous, passionate and poignant, Bang's Vietnam-influenced work is inspired.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Jupiter's Future; Freedom Flexibility; We Are Not Alone But We Are Few; I Remember Albert; Notre Dame De La Garde; Configuration.

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin; Charles Gayle: alto & tenor saxophones; Sirone: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Vietnam: Reflections

Tracks: Reflections; Ru Con; Lock & Load; Ly Ngua O; Doi Moi; Reconciliation; Waltz of the Water Puppets; Trong Com; Reconciliation 2.

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin; Ted Daniel: trumpet; John Hicks: piano; Curtis Lundy: bass; James Spaulding: flute, alto saxophone; Henry Threadgill: flute.


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