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Nguyen Le - Songs of Freedom (2011)

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Nguyen Le - Songs of Freedom (2011)

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1 	Eleanor Rigby	7:04

Erhu – Guo Gan
Lead Vocals – Youn Sun Nah
Percussion – S. Edouard
Vocals – O. Danedjo

2 	I Wish	5:48

Lead Vocals – David Linx
Vocals – H. Paganotti, O. Danedjo
Vocals, Percussion – P. Edouard
Performer [Indian Rhythmic Arrangement] – Prabhu Edouard

3 	Ben Zeppelin	0:51

Electric Guitar [Fretless] – Nguyên Lê
Vocals – Dhafer Youssef

4 	Black Dog	6:22

Percussion – Stéphane Edouard
Vocals – Dhafer Youssef

5 	Pastime Paradise	8:03

Guimbri [Gumbri] – Hamid El Kasri
Lead Vocals – Ousman Danedjo
Percussion – K. Ziad
Vocals – H. Paganotti

6 	Uncle Ho's Benz	0:40

Electric Guitar, Sounds [Vietnam Street Sounds] – Nguyên Lê

7 	Mercedes Benz	6:25

Goblet Drum [Zarb] – Keyvan Chemirani
Lead Vocals – Himiko Paganotti
Vocals – D. Linx, J. Sarr, O. Danedjo

8 	Over The Rainforest	0:36

Acoustic Guitar [Prepared Vietnames Cai Luong Acoustic Guitar] – Nguyên Lê

9 	Move Over	7:01

Alto Saxophone – David Binney
Lead Vocals – David Linx
Percussion – S. Edouard

10 	Whole Lotta Love	5:18

Lead Vocals – Youn Sun Nah
Percussion [Karkabus] – K. Ziad
Tabla, Vocals [Indian Vocals] – Prabhu Edouard

11 	Redemption Song	5:29

Electric Guitar – Nguyên Lê
Vibraphone – Illya Amar
Vocals – Julia Sarr

12 	Sunshine Of Your Love	4:46

Drums, Percussion [Karkabus] – K. Ziad
Electric Guitar – N. Lê
Lead Vocals – Himiko Paganotti
Percussion – S. Edouard
Vibraphone, Marimba – I. Amar
Vocals, Electric Bass – L. Marthe

13 	In A Gadda Da Vida	5:25
14 	Topkapi	0:43

Acoustic Guitar [Baby 12 String Acoustic Guitar] – Nguyên Lê

15 	Come Together	5:47

Clarinet – Chris Speed
Percussion – S. Edouard
Vocals – D. Linx, H. Paganotti, J. Sarr, O. Danedjo

Drums – Stéphane Galland (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15)
Electric Bass, Vocals – Linley Marthe (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15)
Guitar, Computer – Nguyên Lê (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15)
Vibraphone, Marimba, Electronics – Illya Amar (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15) 


“Songs of Freedom” is not my title. I borrowed it from Bob Marley, one of the world’s greatest musical figures. This album is a tribute to those musicians who established Pop Culture in the 70’s with their mythic songs. So mythic, that they now belong to everybody on the planet and so global that they are World Music i.e. “music the world listens to”.

Yet Music is like a bird: once released, it flies to every sky. The Earth becomes rounder and rounder, inviting cultures to chat and soak up one another. Hence, the freedom to make these songs our own. Still lovingly playing these original melodies with the audacity of new arrangements which celebrate the reign of imagination and fantasy.

Thus, a true jazz attitude combining collective traditions with the singularity of interpretation et improvisation. A contemporary point of view, aiming at chanting the flow of our crossed-over world and the energies of our changing identities. ---nguyen-le.com


For over twenty years, Nguyên Lê has collaborated with a growing cadre of like-minded musicians—mostly Paris-based, where the guitarist of Vietnamese origins resides—building a body of work that is, in the truest sense of the word, "world music." From the Afro-centric band Ultramarine, and exploration of his own roots on the seminal Tales from Vietnam (ACT, 1996), to recent explorations of a nexus where programming and spontaneity meet on Homescape (ACT, 2006), Lê has carved out a unique space—often fusion-like in its electricity and energy, but avoiding the negative connotations; undeniably jazz-centric, too, but largely eschewing overt references to traditionalism. These days, plenty of jazzers draw on pop music, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another taking a crack at one of the 1960s' most iconic—and, often, reviled—songs, Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida," as Lê does on Songs of Freedom.

With an unorthodox core quartet, reliant on mallet instruments for much of its chordal support, Lê tackles other '60s chestnuts, like Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love"—which, after a seemingly non sequitur introduction, filled with thundering percussion and wailing voices, turns relatively faithful, albeit at a brisker pace and with an uncharacteristic complexity of percussive detail. But once singer Himiko Paganotti gets past the first verse and chorus, the harmonic center shifts, and suddenly, with vibraphonist Illya Amar layering a shifting cushion of chords over bassist Linley Marthe's lithe underpinning, the song turns into an odd-metered solo feature for Lê, his mesh of oriental microtonality and occidental grit and grease moving in parallel with background vocal percussion, leading to a knotty, thundering finale.

As for "In A Gadda Da Vida," sure, its near-Jungian riff remains intact, but delivered on marimba, and driven by drummer Stéphane Galland's lithe 17/8 pulse, there's none of the original's gravitas, as Lê takes its preexisting Indo-centricity further, giving it an idiosyncratic arrangement; its chorus gradually building to staggering contrapuntal confluence and impressive solos from Lê and Amar, before a newly composed section leads to an ostinato-driven drum solo that avoids all the clichés of the original...all in a nice, compact five minutes.

Elsewhere, Lê tackles The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," with Youn Sun Nah making one of two guest appearances (the other, a tabla and konnakol-driven version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" ), the guitarist's swirling, ethereal guitar lines supporting the singer during an extended intro before the band enters, eastern linearity meeting western harmonies in Guo Gan's erhu and Lê's electric guitar, for a more subdued yet undeniably grooving album opener.

When it comes to interpreting music in a jazz context, freedom more often than not means improvisational freedom, and to be sure, Songs of Freedom has plenty of that. But clearly, for Lê, the concept has more to do with an unfettered prerogative to draw on what, in many cases, are the simplest of song forms, as grist for far more elaborate compositional reworks filled with pointillist detail. Songs of Freedom combines heartfelt respect with absolute irreverence, breathing an utterly different kind of life into these songs, four decades after they first hit the airwaves. ---John Kelman, allaboutjazz.com

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