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Few musicians embody the word "fusion" more than Parisian-born guitarist Nguyên Lê. The son of Vietnamese immigrants, for the past 25 years he's been mining a combination of fusion by the more conventional definitionthe infusion of rock energy into the jazz spherewith fusion in a broader sense, the seamless integration of music from cultures around the world. More than many, Lê's music represents a cross-pollination that, at any given time, can combine his own electric guitaroften distortion-tinged and whammy bar-driven, with bluesy bends like the best Occidental jazz-rocker, yet imbued with the Orient's microtonal nuanceswith a Persian zarb daf drum, Vietnamese dan nguyêt lute, and classical cello. Signature Edition 1 presents a comprehensive cross-section of Lê's music across two generously stuffed discs, dating as far back as his early work with the group Ultramarine on the Afro-centric De (Musidisque, 1989), straight through to Saiyuki (ACT, 2009), where he travels from France to Japan, by way of India and Vietnam.
ACT's Signature Editiontimed to celebrate label head/producer Siggi Loch's 50th anniversary in the businessis modeled after ECM's :rarum series of 2002-2004 insofar as its artists are given free rein to choose what they consider to be representative material and sequence it in an order that makes sense. Unlike :rarum, however, ACT's artists can select music that goes beyond their work with the label, making Signature Edition, in many cases, more fully career-spanning. Certainly that's the case with its first four editions, which also include entries from guitarist Ulf Wakenius, bassist/cellist/pianist Lars Danielsson, and drummer Wolfgang Haffner.
Another differentiator with the Signature Edition is its inclusion of previously unreleased material. From the Saiyuki session comes "Magic Constant," with Lê's tart guitar driven by Prabhu Edouard's tablas and Mieko Miyazaki's swirling koto, while the grooving "Louxor Dance" is culled from the home recordings of Homescape (2006), combining Lê's skill at programmed beats and electronics with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu's muted, Miles Davisian trumpet.
There are moments when Lê's conception suggests how Pat Metheny Group might have sounded, had the iconic American guitarist looked east instead of south, and even some oblique John Scofield-isms on the swinging "Miss One," from Miracles (Universal France, 1990). But what's most important about Signature Edition 1 is its ample evidence of an artist whose voice has been his own from the very beginning, regardless of context. It's hard to imagine a better introduction toor consolidation ofLê's rich body of work to date.
Track Listing: CD1: Magic Constant; Sangam; La Rossinyol; Weaving & Waiting; Kokopanites; Zafaran; Louxor Dance; Totsu!; Snow On A Flower; Cold Winter, Faraway Land; Voodoo Child; Sao Sen. CD2: Dding Dek; Encanto; L'Arkha Li Jeya; Ifrikyia; Foow; Dance Of The Comet; The Wind Blew It Away; The Black Horse; Lupi Pilu; Miss One; Miracles; U Song.
Personnel: Nguyên Lê: guitar, programming (CD1#4, CD1#6, CD1#7), samples (CD1#4, CD1#10), electronics (CD1#6, CD1#7), synths (CD1#10, CD1#11, CD2#3, CD2#4, CD2#7, CD2#8), guitar synth (CD2#6, CCD2#12), synth programming (CD2#9); Meiko Miyazaki: koto (CD1#1, CD1#2, CD1#4), vocals (CD1#2); Prabhu Edouard: tablas (CD1#1, CD1#2), vocals (CD1#2); Hariprasad Chaurasia: bansuri flute (CD1#2); Markus Stockhausen: trumpet (CD1#3); Claudio Puntin: reeds (CD1#3); Steffen Schorn: reeds (CD1#3); Frank Sackenheim: reeds (CD1#3); Arkady Shilkloper: French horn (CD1#3); Joe Sass: tuba (CD1#3); Lars Danielsson: bass (CD1#3); Peter Erskine: drums (CD1#3, CD1#5, CD1#12, CD2#6, CD2#10, CD2#11); RED URG 4: string quartet (CD1#3); Huong Thanh: vocals (CD1#4, CD1#10, CD2#7, CD2#8); Francis Lassus: radiator (CD1#4); Hao Nhiên: zither (CD1#4, CD2#7, CD2#8), dan nguyêt lute (CD1#10), sao flute (CD1#10), dan bau (CD2#7); Etienne Mbappé: electric bass (CD1#4, CD2#12); Alex Tran: percussion (CD1#4); Michel Benita: acoustic bass (CD1#5, CD1#10, CD1#12, CD2#7, CD2#8); Dhafer Youssef: oud and vocals (CD1#6); Paolo Fresu: trumpet (CD1#7, CD2#7, CD2#8); Art Lande: piano (CD1#8, CD1#9, CD2#9-11); Paul McCandless: oboe (CD1#8), soprano saxophone (CD1#9), English horn (CD1#9, CD2#9), reeds (CD2#9); Jamey Haddad: drums and percussion (CD1#8, CD1#9); François Verly: bells (CD1#10), percussion (CD1#10, CD2#7, CD2#8), marimba (CD2#7, CD2#8), keys (CD2#8); Bijan Chemirani: zarb def and rek (CD1#10); Dominique Borker: piano (CD1#10); Ladislav Szathmary: cello (CD1#10); Meshell Ndegeocello: electric bass (CD1#11); Terri Lyne Carrington: drums (CD1#11); Karim Ziad: percussion (CD1#11), drums (CD2#3, CD2#4), gumbri (CD2#4), vocals (CD2#4); Aida Khann: vocals (CD1#11); Renaud Garcia-Fons: acoustic 5-string bass (CD2#1, CD2#2, CD2#5); Tino di Geraldo: drums and percussion (CD2#1, CD2#2); Kudsi Erguner: ney flute (CD2#1); Illya Amar: tuned gongs and marimba (CD1#2); Carles Benavent: electric bass (CD2#2); Michel Alibo: electric bass (CD2#3, CD2#4); B'net Houariyat: vocals (CD2#3, CD2#4), percussion (CD2#4); Stefano di Battista: alto saxophone (CD2#3); Jean Jacques Avnel: kora (CD2#3, CD2#4); Bojan Z.: piano (CD2#4); Alain Debiossat: soprano saxophone (CD2#4); Aly Wagué: African Peul flute (CD2#4); Mino Cinelu: percussion (CD2#5); Marc Johnson: acoustic bass (CD2#6, CD2#10, CD2#11); Simon Spang Hansen: saxophones (CD2#7, CD2#8), flutes (CD2#7); Joël Allouche: drums (CD2#7-9), percussion (CD2#9); Steve Argüelles: drums (CD2#8); Dean Johnson: acoustic bass (CD2#9); Mario Canonge: piano (CD2#12), synth (CD2#12); Pierre Olivier Govin: saxophone (CD2#12); Bago: percussion (CD2#12); Mokhtar Samba: drums (CD2#12).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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