Friday, March 12, 2010

CD Review: Nguyen Le's "Saiyuki"

Nguyen Le

Saiyuki is a transglobal and cross-cultural product of Eastern and Western influences. Vietnam-born Nguyen Le's guitar work is lively, spirited, and rich in rhythm. He is joined by Japan's Mieko Miyazaki on the koto and shamisen. Mieko also provides vocals, along with Prabhu Edouard on tabla and percussion. A special guest star is India's bansuri flute-maestro, Hariprasad Chaurasia. The entire album has an improvisational feel with scatting vocals, ethereal synths, and progressive-jazz undertones. Anyone familiar with the superb guitar playing abilities of the late-Shawn Lane and his work with Jonas Hellborg will find comparisons to Nguyen Le's guitar and Prabhu's tabla playing. "Mina Zaki" is a track evocative of Thomas Newman's 1999 American Beauty film score. In an age when fusion often results in a musical "con-fusion", Saiyuki dispels this connotation and raises far above a typical fusion releases. The subtle nuances, various instrumentation, and haunting, but beautiful, rhythms, encapsulates the essence of the Asian, Indian, and Western-inspired album. ~ Matthew Forss

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