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Billy Bang: Vietnam: Reflections

Jim Santella By

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From jazz's modern edge comes Billy Bang's second reflection on the impact of the Vietnam war experience. Along with fellow Vietnam veterans Ron Brown, Butch Morris, Michael Carvin, and Ted Daniel, the creative violinist interprets a program of originals and traditional folk songs (from Vietnam) to remember the people whose lives were changed. On both sides.

It's been more than thirty years since the end of the war. Much has changed. Relations between Vietnamese and American governments are now getting closer to reconciliation. Economic interests have paved the way toward a significant boost in attitudes. Besides, music and politics have never needed each other for their existence. Jazz has affected the Vietnamese immigrants in the US, and has even extended halfway around the world to that distant shore. Conversely, the folk music of Vietnam has been carried to other countries, along with its émigrés.

Bang's violin weeps soulfully to transpose his indelible impressions. Each piece comes with a story. The three Vietnamese folk songs, naturally, have detailed stories of their own. Bang's compositions, on the other hand, provide vivid impressions through their melodies and surrounding textures.

"Reflections" and "Doi Moi" sweep gently with floating melodies that embrace stronger cultural ties between East and West. Bang's "Waltz of the Water Puppets" employs violin and flute in an affair that could easily have come from one of a hundred different countries. Its universal message is a marriage of melodies that have haunted civilizations all over the world for centuries.

Some of Bang's music combines equal parts Vietnamese traditional music with Bang's Western jazz ensemble sound. The chants, the zither, and the pentatonic harmonic mood, however, carry the listener away much of the time, head-first into Vietnam's long-standing traditions. "Reconciliation 1" remains strongly tied to the Asian country's culture in this manner. "Reconciliation 2," on the other hand, employs the full ensemble in a thrilling affair that opens doors all over the place. They've achieved total agreement between music of the East and music of the West.

As jazz ambassadors, Bang and his chamber jazz ensemble easily spread the word while absorbing strength from the music of this foreign land. This music expands horizons, bringing people together in a cross-cultural agreement that can last for countless centuries.

Track Listing: Reflections; Ru Con; Lock & Load; Ly Ngua O; Doi Moi; Reconciliation 1; Waltz of the Water Puppets; Trong Com; Reconciliation 2

Personnel: Billy Bang (violin); James Spaulding (alto sax, flute); Henry Threadgill (flute); Ted Daniel (trumpet); Butch Morris (conductor); John Hicks (piano); Curtis Lundy (bass); Michael Carvin (drums); Ron Brown (percussion); Co Boi Nguyen (vocalist); Nhan Thanh Ngo (dan tranh)

Title: Vietnam: Reflections | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Justin Time Records

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