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Nguyen Le: Overseas (ACT)

A review of the latest album from one of the worldiest of world musicians

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Nguyen Le, Overseas
The cover of Overseas by Nguyen Le

A reticent guitar hero born in Paris to Vietnamese parents, Nguyen Le has cast a wide stylistic net over his 30-year recording career, fusing jazz, rock, world music, and hip-hop. His newest release, Overseas, emphasizes Le’s far-reaching variations on traditional Vietnamese music. Its starting point was his score for Cirque-Nouveau, the live dance, acrobatics, and music performance project by Vietnamese director Tuan Le, once lead choreographer for Cirque du Soleil.

The opening track, “Noon Moon,” provides a rhythmic waltz-time shell game via bassist Chris Minh Doky, drummer Alex Tran, violinist Ngo Hong Quang, and vibraphonist Illya Amar through its first four minutes, after which Le shifts into high gear with a Jimi Hendrix-worthy solo for the final 90 seconds. The shape-shifting “People of the Waterfalls” employs the breathy beatbox of Trung Bao as an additional percussion instrument, inspiring the solos of Doky and Le before Bao’s own unaccompanied vocal break.

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