Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nguyen Le - Purple (ACT, 2003)

Purple is Le's tribute to the music of Jimi Hendrix. He is accompanied on this disc by Michel Alibo on bass and Terri Lynne Carrington on drums with a number of vocalists and guests sitting in on different songs. All of the compositions are Hendrix originals, with Le's guitar being prevalent in the action but not dominating. In fact, there are quite a few times where he seems like a sideman on his own record. Most of tracks are actually vocal dominated, sung by either Aida Khann or Corin Curschellas. Vocals range from a rap-like take on "Manic Depression" to smooth R&B on "Up From the Skies." It must have seemed like a good idea at the time to emphasize vocals over the expected guitar, but it never comes through in a convincing manner. Cheeky spoken word recitation nearly deadens "If 6 Was 9" before Le swoops in to rescue the proceedings with a polished guitar solo, while spoken and sampled vocals overwhelm the iconic "Purple Haze." One highlight stands head and shoulders above the rest of the music and that is the funky and vocal-free "South Saturn Delta" which finds the core trio turning in a burning guitar led improvisation. It's a great performance and a clear indication of what could have been were it not for the handcuffing of the band. A die hard Le or Hendrix fan may enjoy disc, but overall it is a missed opportunity.

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