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Nguyên Lê

Nguyên Lê

The Paris-born guitarist Nguyên Lê first grabbed the attention of stateside fusion fans with 1997’s 3 Trios, his third outing for the German ACT label. Lê impressed fretboard aficionados with his fluid legato style and liquid whammy-bar articulation on that stellar recording, which he followed up with 1998’s Maghreb & Friends and 2000’s Bakida. Now comes Purple: Celebrating Jimi Hendrix (High Note), Lê’s strongest and most provocative album since Tales From Viêt-Nam, his 1996 rootsy world-music-meets-jazz project.

Purple has the talented guitarist-arranger radically recasting several familiar Hendrix themes while also showcasing Lê’s monstrous chops. Highlights include an inventive funk-fusion interpretation of “Are You Experienced?,” a reharmonized 7/8 rendition of “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and a stunning 12/8 reworking of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” that incorporates the Gnawan rhythms of Morocco and translates Hendrix’s lyrics into the Bambara dialect of Mail (sung by Aida Khann). Drummer Terri Lynne Carrington provides the whirlwind pulse behind “Manic Depression,” slams with authority on a 15/8 version of “If 6 Was 9” and supplies the funky drummer backbeat behind “Purple Haze” while also offering soulful, seductive vocals on “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and “Up From the Skies.”

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