Nguyên Lê, Silk and Sand, ACT ****

Playing a blinder on the new Dhafer Youssef album Street of Minarets Silk and Sand is every bit as good east meeting west - and whisper it the great Vietnamese-French guitarist Nguyên Lê's best record yet, and that's saying a lot given his many …

Published: 27 Feb 2023. Updated: 13 months.

Playing a blinder on the new Dhafer Youssef album Street of Minarets Silk and Sand is every bit as good east meeting west - and whisper it the great Vietnamese-French guitarist Nguyên Lê's best record yet, and that's saying a lot given his many achievements over the years mostly Loch-ed Down on ACT. Why that is perhaps is the sheer comfort you find him in here. But there's more than that. Yes, the instrumentalism is dazzling. For his sound make the leap from the microtonalism of David Fiuczynski, add in a bit of John McLaughlin and you are half way there plus factor in a lot of Asiatic dreaming and non-western scales journeying even deeper. Here Nguyên is with bassist Chris Jennings and percussionist Rhani Krija. It's a power trio sound that joins the dots across so many genres and yet connects most with a hot fiery blues sensibility and particularly if you like the adventurous innovations of the 1970s. The bottleneck reverberations on 'Becoming Water' are a feat for one. Guests are Sylvain Barou on the flute and duduk, Miron Rafajlovic trumpet & flugelhorn and the great Étienne Mbappé on electric bass. A pleasure from beginning to end.

Nguyên Lê photo, photo: Sylvie Laurent

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Tineke Postma, Sankalpa, Edition ****

Setting the agenda this week in terms of new tracks is 'Sankalpa' from upcoming album Aria out in May on Edition by Dutch saxophonist Tineke Postma. A second under 5 minutes it is the double bass you predominantly hear first plodding along with …

Published: 27 Feb 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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Setting the agenda this week in terms of new tracks is 'Sankalpa' from upcoming album Aria out in May on Edition by Dutch saxophonist Tineke Postma. A second under 5 minutes it is the double bass you predominantly hear first plodding along with drums in lock step behind. Then the sax comes in. It's a high register melodic shard at first which is then harmonised by guitar (Ben Monder). The double bass of Robert Landfermann continues its own melody behind. Then drums, played by Tristan Renfrow, seem so independent rhythmically. The word 'Sankalpa' itself is from Sanskrit and its meaning is wrapped inside a vow, or intention - a determination above all for resolution through personal will power. How the tune of that name will continue depends on the harmonics underpinning it all but it is unclear as to how things will go. Then the sax drops down lower and the middle of the tune takes on a mystery. You'd think that Postma is about to solo at this point fully. She kind of does. But the others keep their separate approaches going too and keep the group play alive. It then becomes like collective improvisation with four lines working things out independently and yet the whole thing functioning like an aural collage. Monder does a repeated riff pattern, more rockist later on and he drives through a few ideas that are like an electric guitar work-out accompanied by the drums. Both guitar and sax join in a sub melody and then we are back to the original melody guitar and sax and the whole thing makes perfect sense - the four players cracking the cryptic code. Tineke Postma, photo: Dave Stapleton

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