Trân Vân Khê

Improvisations: New Traditional Music

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This unusual and very beautiful recording features Tran Van Khe, a classical Vietnamese stringed instrument and percussion player, performing modern improvisations in various traditional modes. With simple rhythmic accompaniment on shakers and wood blocks, Khe unfurls one delightful exploration upon another, masterfully blending grounded folk styles with improvisatory daring. The Western listener may be surprised at how similar much of the music sounds to acoustic blues guitar. When Khe settles into some of the slower, sadder pieces here, the affinity to Robert Johnson or Skip James is striking, though presumably Khe knew little, if anything, of them. On the more up-tempo works, he skitters along with astonishing grace and inventiveness, the rhythms light but impossible to resist. Improvisations is very highly recommended both for its own beauty as well as a very fine introduction to the fascinating world of southern Vietnamese music.

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