February 28, 2008

Huong Thanh & Nguyên Lê

Fragile Beauty
Born in what was then Saigon, but resident in France for more than 20 years, Huong Thanh is one of the great female interpreters of traditional Vietnamese song, and an impressive composer. This is the fourth album on which she has collaborated with Nguyen Le, her guitarist, producer and engineer. It's another reminder of the duo's remarkable ability to mix ancient Asian themes and unexpected contemporary influence, all with an exhilarating, cool confidence. Huong Thanh's voice is clear and thoughtful, but still robust enough to match Nguyen Le's delicate and sensitive settings. As a rock and then jazz guitarist, he has played with the likes of Gil Evans and Ornette Coleman, but here his jazz influences are mixed with other global styles and sounds - from African talking drums to the Japanese koto, or from the Vietnamese zither to the muted trumpet work of Paolo Fresu or piano harmonies of Dominique Borker. Many of the songs start acoustic, but then the global experiments and jazz influences subtly begin to emerge, in what becomes an increasingly intriguing set.(Guardian)

Huong Thanh - vocals
Nguyên Lê - electric & acoustic guitar, synthesizer, computer
Mieko Miyazaki - koto
Hao Nhiên Pham - monocorde (dàn bau), 16-strings zither (dàn tranh), sao, meo bamboo flutes
Nguyên Van-Hong - backing vocals
Paolo Fresu - trumpet, fluegelhorn
Stéphane Guillaume - soprano sax, flutes
Renaud Garcia-Fons - pizz & arco acoustic 5-string bass
Etienne Mbappé - fretless bass
Alex Tran - percussions
Francis Lassus - percussions
Illya Amar - bamboo balafon (trung)
Dominique Borker - piano


This is evocative world music, produced and performed on by the Vietnamese guitarist Nguyen Le. At times, though, it strays into his territory of western jazzy electronics and funk, infused with the sound effects and melodic associations of Vietnamese music. Huong Thanh is a vocalist rooted in the glottal manipulations, high, trilling sounds and soft mid-range intonations of the region's traditional techniques, and this is a project that imports her remarkable sound into a mix of contemporary global and indigenous contexts. Dix Raisons D'Aimer finds Huong gliding delicately through an undergrowth of Vietnamese flutes and zithers, before Nguyen's echoing samples and stealthily advancing tabla grooves modernise its atmosphere. The title track mingles the Vietnamese with the African, as Richard Bona's vocal chant intertwines with the leader's feline phrasing, and Ce Que Dit l'Oiseau, full of rustling percussion, finds Huong more mellow, sonorous and playful. Only marginally jazz-affiliated, but the textures are wonderful. Guardian - John Fordham Nov 2001
Like what you hear, buy it! And support the artists that really need it!


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