Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

540

Nguyen Le: Saiyuki

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
He's not the first guitarist to explore the nexus of east and west—the legendary John McLaughlin is, at the very least, the first well-known six-stringer to do so—but, over the past couple decades, Nguyên Lê has been finding his own junctures. McLaughlin may have dug deep into the place where western harmony and Indian linearity meet, but Lê has set his sights even more expansively. Of Vietnamese descent, he's explored the music of his own heritage on Tales from Vietnam (ACT, 1996) and the confluence of that birthright with the Middle East and contemporary technology on Homescapes (ACT, 2006). On Saiyuki, he cuts a broad swath across two continents, from his Parisian home to Japan, with stops along the way in India and Vietnam.



Accompanied by Japanese kotoist Mieko Miyazaki and tablaist/percussionist Prabhu Edouard, Lê delivers a joyful program that's also one of his most organic albums in recent years. Yes, he's an electric guitarist and, as ever, his tonal choices are impeccable, but the use of technology is so well-integrated that it's easy to imagine this as a live performance. A truly egalitarian offering, the music is co-composed by all three players, who dip into the wellsprings of their individual cultures to create a program that's transcendent in its beauty and cultural cross-pollination, supporting the old adage of music as the international language.



Edouard's konnakol (vocal percussion) opens the joyously upbeat "Sweet Ganesh," a linear composition possessing a knotty but memorable melody that's akin to McLaughlin's Shakti and Remember Shakti groups, but Lê's heavily sustaining, compressed, and overdriven tone is distanced from McLaughlin's, and his microtonal bends are even more directly linked to the eastern tradition. Miyazaki's harp-like koto also adds a richer texture to the trio; everyone solos, but it all feels compositional, even Edouard's lengthy konnakol/tabla solo towards the song's end.



"Autumn Wind" is even more meditational; like the breeze of its title, the song gradually takes on forward motion, its gentle spirituality the result of Lê's winding harmonics and guest bansuri flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia's rich, unhurried lines. Chaurasia was a member of the first Remember Shakti incarnation, first meeting McLaughlin during the sessions for percussionist Zakir Hussain's seminal Making Music (ECM, 1987), and so his participation on three of Saiyuki's ten tracks is especially auspicious.



Elsewhere, "Mina Zuki," with Lê's bluesy acoustic guitar, manages to link Japan with the Mississippi Delta, though its rich arrangement also possesses just a hint of the American Midwest. "Azur" may be, as Lê puts it, "a jazz composition," but the trio's arrangement takes it deep into the orient, with Miyazaki's the largely dominant and definitive voice.



Despite complexity under the covers, the music of Saiyuki—seemingly diametrically opposed to its translation, "Journey to the West"—soothes with its innate lyricism and elegant optimism. With his distinctive approach to exploring and integrating music from around the globe, Lê continues to impress with his fine playing, astute collaborative choices, and personal vision.


Track Listing: Sweet Ganesh; Autumn Wind; Mina Zuki; Mayur; Sangam; Azur; Izanagi Izanami; Hen Ho; Nanae Goromo; Ila.

Personnel: Nguyên Lê: guitars; Meiko Miyazaki: koto, vocals; Prabhu Edouard: tablas, percussion, vocals; Hariprasad Chaurasia: bansuri flute (2, 3, 5).

Title: Saiyuki | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Unknown label

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Ha Noi Duo

Ha Noi Duo

ACT Music
2017

buy
Saiyuki

Saiyuki

Unknown label
2009

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Feb9Sat
ARNAUD DOLMEN, Nguyên Lê, Naïssam Jalal
Baiser Salé
Paris, France
Mar6Wed
Nguyên Lê
Tivoli/vredenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands
Mar23Sat
NGUYEN LE
Théâtre De Fontblanche
Vitrolles, France
€12 - 16

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz Album Reviews
Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz
By Dan McClenaghan
January 21, 2019
Read The Poetry of Jazz Volume Two Album Reviews
The Poetry of Jazz Volume Two
By Victor L. Schermer
January 21, 2019
Read Mesophase Album Reviews
Mesophase
By Glenn Astarita
January 21, 2019
Read Rasif Album Reviews
Rasif
By Chris M. Slawecki
January 21, 2019
Read Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981 Album Reviews
Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981
By John Sharpe
January 20, 2019
Read More Than One Thing Album Reviews
More Than One Thing
By Gareth Thompson
January 20, 2019
Read Wandering Monster Album Reviews
Wandering Monster
By Roger Farbey
January 20, 2019