"A form of world music that can captivate but that also sometimes loses tension."Jazzism, 14-2-2020
Instinctive Flow: Inside Nguyên Lê’s Streams by Anil Prasad
The only constant about Nguyên Lê’s career is that it’s always evolving. The Parisborn and based musician has established himself as a preeminent voice in combining myriad global musics with Vietnamese influences in thrilling and groundbreaking ways. Streams continues in that tradition, with a focus on taking jazz elements and extending them far beyond conventional boundaries.
“The album is about revealing where my journey has brought me today and how each cultural idiosyncrasy has melted into my own voice,” says Lê. “There are lots of Indian rhythm concepts, many Indian and Vietnamese phrasings, Oriental melodic shifts and accents, and rhythms from Maghreb – as well as unknown references to imaginary traditions. I like to think all of Streams’ music showcases the journey of cultures, and how cultures transform themselves when they travel.”
Every musician on the album is also dedicated to that inspiring mission: “This group is a great symbiosis of musicians, human beings and artistic personalities,” says Lê. “I’ve known Illya Amar since he was three. He’s my stepson and I saw him grow up and become a fantastic vibraphonist with great harmonic depth. I’ve known Chris Jennings for over 10 years. He provides such solid foundations which are rare to hear in funky grooves for an acoustic bass player. Drummer John Hadfield has a deep love of indigenous traditions. He has traveled extensively to India, Peru, Mongolia, the Middle East, and Indonesia to learn the rhythms and instruments of each culture.”
For Lê, an essential element of jazz is having an open mind and open ears: “Because it’s based on collective improvisation, jazz is about listening to the other musicians and reacting and adapting your musical speech to the other on the spot,” says Lê. “This essential dialog and interplay makes jazz musicians the most empowered for cross-cultural dialogues.
The Streams quartet is one of my favorite examples of opening up that dialog. It creates rich musical conversations that, while grounded in jazz, ultimately transcends genres, enabling listeners to simply focus on and enjoy the music. I believe a new world of inspiration is opening up between tradition and modernity, East and West, and North and South. Streams is the embodiment of that idea.”
"Nobody plays guitar like him," wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper about Nguyên Lê; the very first exclusive ACT artist ever. Born of Vietnamese parents in Paris in 1959, Nguyên Lê is one of the most versatile and independent guitarists in the world – going far beyond the bounds of jazz music and shaped by the most varied of influences such as Asian music, modern jazz, fusion or classic rock.
A form of world music that can captivate but that also sometimes loses tension.
Yes, we are a fan. Again Lê knows how to fascinate us. The man masterfully mixes vocal solos with a funky touch, sometimes thumping like rock jazz, always with that mysterious Vietnamese ingredient in the background.
Streams is a unique album in every way that besides the air guitarists also lovers of adventurous music will like.
In addition to up-tempo songs, Streams also has a few slower spherical parts. And always that vibraphone sounds like a beautiful color addition.
Het Parool, 19-1-2019