Saturday, August 27, 2005

Billy Bang – Vietnam: Reflections (Justin Time, 2005)

Violinist and composer Billy Bang saw some horrific things during his service in the Vietnam War, things that he has been trying to grapple with ever since. In an effort to finally make peace with himself after all these years, Bang invited a group of musicians, all of whom served in the war, to make an album of the experience. The result, Vietnam: the Aftermath was a cathartic breakthrough for Bang and won him Album of the Year in the Cadence Magazine reader’s poll. This album picks up where that one left off, and continues the same fiery improvisation over Asian themed melodies.

This is another courageous album as Bang continues to face down the demons that have plagued him. It’s a little mellower than the previous CD and with song titles like “Reflections” and “Meditations” it’s possible that Bang has moved past the need for confrontation and now can begin the search for peace. Some great sidemen aid in the task. Enlisting heavyweights like James Spaulding and Henry Threadgill on alto saxophone and flute ensure that the music will be nimble to move in any direction Bang chooses. What’s most interesting is some beautifully haunting vocals that give much of the record an ethereal air.

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