A joyful program that’s also one of his most organic albums

He's not the first guitarist to explore the nexus of east and west—the legendary John McLaughlin is, at the very least, the first well-known six-stringer to do so—but, over the past couple decades, Nguyên Lê has been finding his own junctures & set his sights even more expansively. Of Vietnamese descent, he's explored the music of his own heritage on Tales from Vietnam (ACT, 1996) and the confluence of that birthright with the Middle East and contemporary technology on Homescape (ACT, 2006). On Saiyuki, he cuts a broad swath across two continents, from his Parisian home to Japan, with stops along the way in India and Vietnam.

Accompanied by Japanese kotoist Mieko Miyazaki and tablaist/percussionist Prabhu Edouard, Lê delivers a joyful program that's also one of his most organic albums in recent years. Yes, he's an electric guitarist and, as ever, his tonal choices are impeccable, but the use of technology is so well-integrated that it's easy to imagine this as a live performance. A truly egalitarian offering, the music is co-composed by all three players, who dip into the wellsprings of their individual cultures to create a program that's transcendent in its beauty and cultural cross-pollination, supporting the old adage of music as the international language.

Despite complexity under the covers, the music of Saiyuki—seemingly diametrically opposed to its translation, "Journey to the West"—soothes with its innate lyricism and elegant optimism. With his distinctive approach to exploring and integrating music from around the globe, Lê continues to impress with his fine playing, astute collaborative choices, and personal vision.

John Kelman, All About Jazz


This is a absolutely fantastically original album. This is hitting the crossover world/spiritual jazz in all the right places. This is a truly ‘joyful encounter’.

Gerry Hectic, Fly Global Music

A wonderfully homogenised sound

Despite their different cultural backgrounds the players and instruments mesh together perfectly to make a wonderfully homogenised sound with the interplay between guitar and koto particularly engrossing. “Saiyuki” is quietly adventurous, an excellent distillation of different traditions, times and cultures into a coherent and consistently charming whole.

Ian Mann, © 2009 The Jazz Mann

One of the best world/ jazz album of 2009

This is a very special cooperation of Nguyen Le with two musicians. The Japanese title means "Journey to the West", which in this case indicates a journey – led by the Paris-based Vietnamese Nguyen Le – with the Japanese koto-player and singer Mieko Miyazaki, tabla-player Prabhu Edouard and the great Hindustani flute player Hariprasad Chaurasia both from India. Each is conversant with transnational modern styles. The resulting music changes its cultural center of gravity from track to track. Sometimes it's north India; sometimes it links Japan and San Francisco. A sparky experiment for everybody. One of the best world/ jazz album of 2009. 

Highly recommended for every jazz and world music fan.

Hannibal, dec 2009

I am listening again now, a beautiful, wonderful album. You demonstrate such sensitivity towards so many forms. So impressive.

Anil Prasad, nov 2009

World Jazz at its best!

This is an amazing album. With Saiyuki, World jazz has certainly come of age. Jazz guitar virtuoso Nguyen Le has teamed up with the excellent koto player Mieko Miazaki and the wonderfully gifted Prabu Edouard on tabla to deliver a stellar world jazz mix that defies categorization. The music references its roots in vietnamese, japanese and indian traditions but ultimately transcends cultural distinctions, creating a genuinely original hybrid that stands on its own. This is music that delights the senses, tickles the ear and stimulates the intellect. Music this pure comes along rarely and is cause for celebration when discovered. Buy it now while the bonus track is still available -it is my favorite tune on the CD. What a great album by one of the most cutting edge performer/composers in jazz today. And don't forget to check out his middle eastern collaboration, "Maghreb and Friends", one of the most important world fusion albums of the last decade. In the words of pianist Art Lande, "Nguyen Le is the future of jazz." This CD is only one of many reasons for that claim.

ITunes customer review, by music_fiend

The most daring and rewarding fusion

The most daring and rewarding fusion at Globalfest was Nguyên Lê’s Saiyuki, the trio of a Vietnamese-rooted French jazz guitarist (Mr. Lê), the Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki and the Indian tabla player Prabhu Edouard. Reaching for what Mr. Lê called “an Asia without borders,” Saiyuki used crisp, pointillistic motifs — virtuosic ones, in odd meters — to frame and spur spellbinding improvisations: billowing koto tremolos, fully melodic drumming, sitarlike guitar runs and hovering jazz chords, in a genuinely international music.

Jon Pareles, New York Times, january 2010

Nguyen Le's album Saiyuki contains some of the best music I heard at GlobalFEST, held on Jan. 10 at New York City's Webster Hall. There, he cut a small figure, but he generated a mighty electric-guitar sound. It wasn't just the adventurous guitar — which sometimes sounded African and at other times channeled progressive rock — but he was also flanked by the extraordinary Mieko Miyazaki on koto (a zither-like Japanese stringed instrument). Completing the trio was tabla player Prabhu Edouard, who helped make this an extraordinary trio.

Bob Bollen, January 19, 2010

Nguyen Le In Concert At GlobalFEST 2010

  One of the albums of the year

We’re talking some serious multi-culturalism here. And we’re also talking about one of the albums of the year for Nguyên Lê, Prabhu Edouard, Mieko Miyazaki & Hariprasad Chaurasia blend their disparate styles exhilaratingly, creating music that is elegant, emotionnaly & aesthetically satisfaying & utterly compelling. Througout, the listener is repeatedly wrong-footed as tunes evolve unexpectedly, the ensemble creating music of almost infinite variety. «Sangam», the sanskrit word for joyful encounter, a phrase that perfectly describes the track & the album as a whole.

Trevor Hodgett, R2 (Rock’n’Reel, UK, january 2010

Vietnam-born Nguyen Le's guitar work is lively, spirited, and rich in rhythm. 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, Inside World Music, march 2010

Signature Edition 1

Few musicians embody the word "fusion" more than Parisian-born guitarist Nguyên Lê. The son of Vietnamese immigrants, for the past 25 years he's been mining a combination of fusion by the more conventional definition—the infusion of rock energy into the jazz sphere—with fusion in a broader sense, the seamless integration of music from cultures around the world. More than many, Lê's music represents a cross-pollination that, at any given time, can combine his own electric guitar—often distortion-tinged and whammy bar-driven, with bluesy bends like the best Occidental jazz-rocker, yet imbued with the Orient's microtonal nuances—with a Persian zarb daf drum, Vietnamese dan nguyêt lute, and classical cello. Signature Edition 1 is its ample evidence of an artist whose voice has been his own from the very beginning, regardless of context.

John Kelman, All About Jazz

Signature Edition 1


The FLY offices were buzzin’ last year with the arrival of the “magic” Nguyên Lê album Saiyuki so this compilation that spans 20 years of his career is a more than timely release. The double CD set finishes at the start with the multi-ethnic band Ultramarine (‘U Song’ from 1989) and his first solo album title track, ‘Miracles’. Both show that Lê’s early fusions of Vietnamese music traditions and contemporary jazz was merely a foretaste of what was to come. So, from 1989 to 2009, Lê has travelled the world of music and Signature Edition 1 is a true celebration of his best works. As a guitarist, he’s up with the likes of John Abercrombie, Ulf Wakenius, Eivind Aarset and Larry Coryell but as a musician, he’s in a world of his own - now that’s a recommendation if I’ve ever heard one!

Gerry Hectic, Fly Global Music

Signature Edition 1

ACT have chosen Nguyên Lê to initiate Signature Editions, perhaps the most interesting, especially from a musical socio-cultural perpective, artist on the label. He has made four quite lovely albums with Huong Thanh, which are both understated & haunting; these are represented by the tracks «The Wind Blew It Away» & the «Black Horse» which number among the highlights of this collection. Other memorable moments are with the stunning 5 string bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons & the track «Voodoo Child» which allows a glimpse of the unreconstituted rock n’roller that lies deep in his soul.

Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise, may 2010

Signature Edition

This compilation brings to mind the diversity of Nguyên Lê’s inspirations : jazz, rock, traditional music, electronics. There are lots of fluidity & finesse in Nguyên Lê’s playing. There’s also a strong link to rythm, flexible & full of space. Therefore, the relation to the drummer Peter Erskine or the percussion player Karim Ziad is enthralling.

Sylvain Siclier, Le Monde, 15 mai 2010


   Press Clips 2009