NGUYEN LE / Nguyen Le Covers Mixtape

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This one is both short and easy; short because I don’t know enough about Nguyen Le to pontificate on his influences, background, and overall music career; easy because I know what my ears hear, and I like it.

My man was born in Paris (1959) to Vietnamese immigrants. Nguyen plays guitar, produces a wide variety of music and has a string of diverse albums illustrating everything from his jazz and blues chops to his employment of his Vietnamese musical heritage and his expertise with electronic music. What I like most is his arranging skills, the way he puts all of his pieces together with the subtlety of a master watercolorist able to bring out the beauty of every scene.

I have long been partial to Purple, his album of Jimi Hendrix music. What I was most partial to is that he approached the music for its compositional strengths and highlighted the meanings of the lyrics along with an orchestral sweep for the way each song was presented anchored by a heavy funk undertow.

Would you be surprised if I told you the bass player on the Hendrix covers is Meshell Ndegeocello, and Terri Lynn Carrington is on drums? I also really, really appreciate the way a trio of vocalists articulates the lyrics in a talk-singing kind of way that harkens back to Hendrix’s blues roots as well as Hendrix’s own vocal style, plus you’ve got the modern update consummated by Meshell Ndegeocello. Even though Meshell isn’t credited as a vocalist on this album, Meshell’s sonic prints are evident in how the battery of three vocalists (Aïda Khann, Corin Curschellas, Terri Lyne Carrington) are employed.
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This is one of my favorite Hendrix tribute albums and it’s not even mainly because of the guitar playing. And I don’t mean that as a knock or a left-handed compliment. Le is one of the hippest guitarist on the contemporary scene especially in terms of his tasteful use of electronics, which is one of his main calling cards.

Then I got wind of Nguyen’s new album: Songs of Freedom which was even more eclectic than the Hendrix album. At another time I will get into some of his original music, right now I just want to luxuriate in his take on familiar material.
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If you dig what Le did with Hendrix, watch out for this new Songs of Freedom set most of which was recorded in late 2010 well before the current Arab spring. Adding to all the diverse influences which were so prominent on the Hendrix set, Le now includes a healthy dose of Bollywood beats and other contemporary influences from India. This is some tasty international gumbo. Not everything in it is to my taste, but he’s got my ears constantly smacking their lips (yeah, I know I’m mixing a metaphor but this music deserves such wild mixing and remixing).

If you don’t believe me, just check out what my man does with Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”—I’m already working on an “I Wish” Mixtape inspired by this version.

I promised to keep it short. So, besides listen, the only other thing I have to say is: listen some more.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Nguyen Le Covers Mixtape

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01 “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”
02 “Manic Depression”
03 “Are You Experienced”
04 “Purple Haze”
05 “If 6 Was 9”
06 “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”
07 “Up From The Skies”

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Songs of Freedom
08 “Eleanor Rigby”
09 “I Wish”
10 “Pastime Paradise”
11 “Redemption Song”
12 “Sunshine Of Your Love”
13 “Come Together”

This entry was posted on Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 7:20 pm and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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