All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

9

Nguyen Le & Ngo Hong Quang: Ha Noi Duo

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
After exploring the pop culture of the 1960s/1970s in Songs of Freedom (ACT Music, 2011) and paying big-band tribute to Pink Floyd's iconic album on Celebrating The Dark Side of the Moon (ACT Music, 2014), French guitarist/producer Nguyên Lê returns to explore his Vietnamese ancestry on Hà Nôi Duo, with vocalist/multi- instrumentalist Ngô Hồng Quang and several of Le's trusted collaborators. It's Lê's sixth album to take Vietnamese music as a launching pad, and whilst the traditional elements are deeply etched, the guitarist's fusion of searing rock-cum jazz improvisation, pan-Asian textures, muted trumpet and post-production sculpting, makes for an essentially contemporary work.

If all else bar Lê's guitar and Quang's vocals/traditional folk instruments were stripped away, this would still be a fascinating encounter. The two entwine on the melodic heads, while Quang's seductive vocals—powerful and lyrical—mirror Lê's own dynamic range. Quang's dan nhi (fiddle), dan tinh (lute), dan bau (monocorde) and dan chieng day (harmonic harp) infuse the music with timeless timbres, in contrast to Lê's post-Jimi Hendrix swagger.

This juxtaposition of tradition and modernity is much like Vietnam itself, a staggeringly beautiful country of ninety million inhabitants, where agriculture and high-tech industries are the twin pistons driving one of the world's fastest growing economies. "Cloud Chamber" conjures both faces of Vietnam; temple chimes and Lê's flute-like intro evoke ancient bucolic soundscapes, the reverie soon shattered by pounding rhythms and the flying sparks from Lê's thrilling electric solo. The folksy lyricism of dan nhi and guitar on "Five Senses" is given pan-Asian embellishment by Mieko Miyazaki's harp-like koto and Prabhu Edouard's tabla.

The Japanese and Indian musicians, who combined memorably with Lê on Saiyuki (ACT Music, 2009), make occasional but telling contributions. Miyazaki's deft, lullaby touch accompanies Quang's serene vocal on "A Night with You"—a delightful arrangement of a traditional Quan Ho song-form dating from the thirteenth century. Edouard's khanjira and shaker inject buoyancy into "Chiec Khan Pieu," a visceral vocal number enlivened by riffing lute/electric guitar and a stirring konnokol finale.

Elsewhere, Paolo Fresu's flugelhorn and muted trumpet color almost half the tracks, notably on "The Graceful Seal"—where trip-hop rhythms, Lê's space-rock riffing and Quang's soaring vocals combine in an intoxicating fusion. Similarly, "Like Mountain Birds" marries traditional vocals with urbane rhythms to powerful effect, with slow-chugging lute underpinning fireworks from both guitarist and vocalist. It's Quang's epic final flourish, however, as rousing as it is lyrical, that steals the day.

The music is equally effective when stripped to the bare bones, as on the acoustic instrumental "Heaven's Gourd." This compelling duet pitches acoustic guitar and lute together in rootsy intimacy, and could have been penned by the banks of the Ganges, the Mississippi or the Mekong. Stephane Edourad's udu and programing effects are the only additions to guitar and vocals on the lilting ballad "Monkey Queen," while Alex Tain on cajon drives "Beggar's Love Song," another ancient Vietnamese song recast in Lê's modern furnace to render an irresistible slice of electro-acoustic folk-funk. The tenderness of Lê's unaccompanied turn on "Silently Grows the Rice" provides an achingly emotive conclusion to an evocative journey.

Beautifully organic in essence, yet with unabashedly modern flourishes, Lê and Quang have fashioned an inspired work, which, much like Vietnam itself, casts a lasting spell.

Track Listing: Cloud Chamber; Five Senses; Like Mountain Birds; A Night With You, Gone; The Graceful Seal; Heaven’s Gourd; Chiếc Khăn Piêu; Monkey Queen; Beggar’s Love Song ; Silently Grows The Rice

Personnel: Nguyên Lê: electric/acoustic guitars (2), ebow (1,7), sustainiac guitars (1,8,10); synths, samplers programming (1,3,5,6,8,9); Ngô Hồng Quang: vocals, Đàn Nhị fiddle (4,6,8,9), Đàn Bầu monocorde (1,10), Đàn Tính lute (2,5, 6,8), Đàn Môi jew's harp (3,6), Đàn Chiêng Dây harmonic harp (5); Paolo Fresu: trumpet & flugelhorn (3,6,7,8); Mieko Miyazaki: koto (4,7); Prabhu Edouard: tablas, kanjira & pocket shaker (4,6); Stéphane Edouard: Udu & shaker (8);Alex Tran: cajon (9).

Title: Ha Noi Duo | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ACT Music

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Drift CD/LP/Track Review
Drift
by Paul Rauch
Published: July 18, 2018
Read Journey Moments CD/LP/Track Review
Journey Moments
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: July 18, 2018
Read Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island CD/LP/Track Review
Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 18, 2018
Read Night Concert CD/LP/Track Review
Night Concert
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 18, 2018
Read Rumah Batu CD/LP/Track Review
Rumah Batu
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 17, 2018
Read The Bat Swings! CD/LP/Track Review
The Bat Swings!
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 17, 2018
Read "Lucus" CD/LP/Track Review Lucus
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Light in the Ring: The Ali Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Light in the Ring: The Ali Suite
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: June 7, 2018
Read "Strykin’ Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Strykin’ Ahead
by John Kelman
Published: September 2, 2017
Read "Dart Drug" CD/LP/Track Review Dart Drug
by Chris May
Published: June 30, 2018
Read "Songs Of Universal Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Songs Of Universal Peace
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 4, 2018
Read "Someone Else" CD/LP/Track Review Someone Else
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 27, 2017