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Nguyen Le: Overseas

Don Phipps By

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Robust and compelling, guitarist and composer Nguyen Le's Overseas continues his explorations of hybrid jazz—a jazz which combines traditional Vietnamese music with a personal style of jazzy soulful funk. Ancient instruments and urban rhythms collide, creating a kaleidoscopic musical mix that is at times hopping, like a busy Ho Chi Minh City avenue, and at times peaceful, like a morning sunrise over the ocean on an deserted tropical beach.

Le composed the music as part of a performance project by the "Cirque-Nouveau," a dance, acrobatic, and music group which celebrates Vietnamese tradition with a modern emphasis. Le's music, like the art that adorns the CD, juggles diverse influences as it migrates through its changes. "Mother Goddess—Red Sky" explodes with color, a twirling dance showcasing Ngô Hồng Quang's vocal over classical percussion. "People of the Waterfalls" features some delightful work by Illya Amar on vibraphone, and the percussion adds a rural mix behind Chris Minh Doky's funky virtuosic bass solo. "The Offering" is a musical canoe ride through the jungle—replete with bird songs in the canopy overhead -and Le's clean and unadorned guitar lines float like pink lotus blossoms on a pond.

"Tribal Symmetry" offers stunning flute work and bamboo percussion. Le joins the effort on electric bass, which alternates with percussion instruments and Quang's lute. Cuong Vu's trumpet and Le Thi Van Mai's dàn tranh zither can be heard on "Overseas Suite—The Quest," but the spotlight is squarely on Le as he burns it on a scorching solo. The percussionists take over on "Overseas Suite—Beat Rice Box," and their rhythmic intensity propels the music forward.

The whole of Nguyen Le's Overseas is like a wonderful audio journey aboard a Nha Trang Boat meandering through a rural and urban Vietnamese landscape. Spiritual, urbane, and exotic, this journey is one not to miss.

Track Listing: Noon Moon; People Of The Waterfalls; The Offering; Tribal Symmetry; Overseas Suite – Origin; Overseas Suite - The Quest; Overseas Suite - Square Earth; Overseas Suite - Âu Co, The Mountain Fairy; Overseas Suite - Beat Rice Box; Overseas Suite - In The Warm Rain; Overseas Suite - Year Of The Dog; Mother Goddess - Yellow Earth; Mother Goddess - Red Sky.

Personnel: Nguyên Lê: electric & bass guitars, electronics; Ngô Hồng Quang: vocals, dàn nhi fiddle, dàn môi jaws harp, dàn bâu monocorde & dàn tính lute; Illya Amar: vibraphone, MalletKAT, T’rung bamboo xylophone; Trung Bao: beatbox; Alex Tran: percussion & drums; Lê Thi Van Mai: dàn tranh zither; Nguyên Hoàng Anh: bamboo sáo flute: Minh Dàn Môi: dàn do bamboo percussion; Cuong Vu: trumpet; Chris Minh Doky: acoustic bass.

Title: Overseas | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ACT Music

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