Press Clips 2011

Songs of Freedom


Record of the Year 2011, Cover Story in April


Nguyen Le | ACT Music (2011)

For over twenty years, Nguyên Lê has collaborated with a growing cadre of like-minded musicians—mostly Paris-based, where the guitarist of Vietnamese origins resides—building a body of work that is, in the truest sense of the word, "world music." Lê has carved out a unique space—often fusion-like in its electricity and energy, but avoiding the negative connotations; undeniably jazz-centric, too, but largely eschewing overt references to traditionalism.

Clearly, for Lê, the concept has more to do with an unfettered prerogative to draw on what, in many cases, are the simplest of song forms, as grist for far more elaborate compositional reworks filled with pointillist detail. Songs of Freedom combines heartfelt respect with absolute irreverence, breathing an utterly different kind of life into these songs, four decades after they first hit the airwaves.

John Kelman april 15, 2011

Songs of Freedom : number one of best Jazz sales, 10 & 11 april 2011

Songs of Freedom : number one of best Jazz sales, 24 april 2011

Email from a US journalist

Songs of Freedom is absolutely magnificent. In many ways, it's the culmination of many of your previous albums, especially two of my favorites, Maghreb & Friends and Purple. And the sophistication of the arrangements and your production skills, along with your your guitar playing have certainly reached new heights of expertise and artistry. And your arrangements (I prefer to call them "re-compositions" due to their originality) are remarkable.

Songs of Freedom gets my enthusiastic vote for Album of the Year. I can't/don't want to stop listening to it!  Each time I hear it, I keep on discovering/hearing/understanding/realizing new things. I can't thank you enough for creating this most magnificent album ... I haven't heard anything this fantastic in years.

Robert Kaye, journalist for Abstractlogix


World Music Charts Europe

Interpreter: Nguyen Le
Label: ACT
Location: France/Vietnam

Take a trip back to the time when 'fusion' was not the naughtiest of all possible naughty words, and listen without prejudice to this superlatively genre-bending collection. Nguyen Le reaches the parts that other fusionistas fail to reach with renditions of anthemic pop tunes performed with staggering panache and skill. The original Black Dog, Come Together (performed here in 9:8, for heaven's sake!), Whole Lotta Love, Sunshine of Your Love and even In a Gadda Da Vida will never sound the same again. And it's by no means all guitar widdly-widdly - some spectacular vibes and marimba playing (Illya Amar) plays an equally prominent role. For concept, performance and realisation, it's (this reviewer's) album of the year.

Martin Gordon/23.03.2011

Les Echos

Watch out : masterpiece ! Jazz musicians love to scrub with other more popular music. But often it is a failure. On the contrary, Nguyên Lê, the guitar player of vietnamese origin, just produced a milestone recording. Nobody ever made such rich and subtle versions of pop hits.

Renaud Czarnes, May 5, 2011

Email from the website

As I sit here I am listening to “Songs of Freedom”. The first time I heard it, it made me laugh nearly all the way through (with delight and pleasure). I have never heard such an inventive and creative interpretation of covers. I have never heard a cover of Stevie Wonder that has been better than the original. Pastime Paradise was simply stunning. I love the way that you incorporate so much of the ethnic East Asian instruments into your guitar sound. Thank you for some great music.



David Riggs


if you’re open to Indo-jazz rock fusions, this album is very much a grower with the added bonus that Lê is still the most exciting guitar player on the planet at the moment, lllya Amar is my new vibe hereo and clearly we need to hear lots more of Linx and Dhafer Youssef.

Gerry Hectic, FLY Global Music Culture, May 11, 2011

Jazztimes USA

In his liner notes to Songs of Freedom, Parisian guitar marvel Nguyên Lê explains how the album is his love letter to the 70’s mythic songs. Lê had a similar objective with 2002’s Purple: Celebrating Jimi Hendrix. This time he’s come up with an even more profound statement that transcends the guitar itself. There are radical reharmonizations and brilliant counterpoint lines underscoring these familiar themes, & Lê smartly utilizes a grip of different ethnic elements. Into that heady, creative brew, he unleashes some of the most staggeringly original electric guitar playing since Allan Holdsworth. With his remarkable facility & fertile imagination, Le has crafted new anthems for a pan-global age.

Bill Milkowski, Jazztimes, July/August 2011

Options Magazine

Songs of Freedom has beaucoup tasty musical surprises, thanks to the international world-music cast Lê has assembled and his imaginative, outside-the-box arrangements. As a guitarist, he’s the real deal, and his creative playing consistently pushes this eclectic, entertaining program way beyond mere cover-song territory. None of the people on this CD, including Lê, are well-known in North America, but these are not just anonymous studio musicians showing up for a quick and dirty “oldies” gig. Almost everyone on the disc have followings either in Europe or Asia, and the artistry and sophistication they bring to Lê’s arrangements are eye-opening. Listening to this music somehow makes the world seem smaller and more connected – which was one of Lê’s professed intentions.

Bill Tilland, Options Magazine, June 2011, USA

Bass Player

Vietnamese guitarist Lê turns in one of the standout sides of the year with his exotic, intoxicating interpretations of eleven classic pop songs, backed by the formidable core of bassist Linley Marthe, vibist Illya Amar, and drummer Stéphane Galland, plus a host of guest vocalists and percussionists. “Eleanor Rigby” immediately sets the stage with its haunting, intertwined Asiatic themes, funk feel, and jazz reharms. “I Wish” comes right out of a Bombay marketplace, with Marthe’s cascading bass line and David Linx’s soulful singing. “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love” boast third-world percussion beds, melismatic vocals, Lê’s Holdsworth-ian shredding, and Linley’s psychotic, effectsdriven solo on the latter. Janis Joplin covers “Mercedes Benz” and “Move Over” capture the striking similarites between Vietnamese folk music and rural blues, while “Sunshine of Your Love” moves brightly in and out of keys and global grooves.

Among the deepest immersions are “Come Together,” with it’s odd meter and four-vocalist reading, and the row of fresh sections that unfold during an epic reimagination of “Pastime Paradise.” Both tracks boast Marthe’s ear-snagging gift for playing in the cracks and gaps like few can. Most impressive overall is Lê’s ability to infuse wonderous new world textures and take melodic liberties without ever losing the musical and social intent and integrity of the original songs.

Chris Jisi, Bass Player, July 2011, USA

3Js Music Blog

The Beatles’ music has been remade over and over again. So what makes this remake special?  Answer, Nguyen Le!

This is a haunting track with Le’s powerful, dulcet guitar opening and Youn Sun Nah’s rich vocals. When I first heard this track I was stunned by the mad genius arrangement. Le combines traditional rock with Asian influence to create an amazing musical number that takes the listener on a familiar journey. An earthly ethereal journey may be the best way to describe this track. Le’s guitar playing and Nah’s singing pull the listener’s soul out of its body and the world beats and Asian string instruments pull the soul along skimming the earth, forcing it revel in the beauty of the cultures the earth has to offer.

Don’t expect the Beatles when you listen to this song. You will be disappointed. This is, in fact, a more purposeful and powerful version of the beloved Beatles song. Nguyen Le made this his song and creates a completely unique experience very different from the original. Customer Reviews

Sublime Creativity and Beauty

5.0 out of 5 stars

This is a highly creative take on some of rock's most iconic tunes.

Adventurous, free flowing versions of songs by Beatles, Cream, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and not to forget Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida". Personal interpretations, more often than not drifting into hypercomplex odd metre passages. And full of world music hints bringing an Indian flavor to "Whole Lotta Love". Stellar vocals from a host of guests that gives their stamp to the songs.

The album also drifts into soul (Stevie Wonder) and brings a downright beautiful vocal/guitar version of Marley's "Redemption Songs". Everything anchored in best possible way by Linley Marthe on bass - known as the last bass hero with Zawinul Syndicate and the propulsive drumming of Stéphane Galland. On top of it this ofc the always creative fretwork of the man himself. All in all a stuning effort not to be missed!

Bodhi Heeren, Copenhagen, April 17, 2011

Another masterpiece from the virtuoso Nguyen Le

5.0 out of 5 stars

This is yet another astounding collection of songs reimagined by Vietnamese Guitar virtuoso Nguyen Le. If you are curious as to who really got Hendrix, look no further. Le's take on the Hendrix canon, Purple, was a masterpiece and made the point categorically that Le knew where to go with the spirit as well as the notes Hendrix created. The music is great. His accompaniests and singers spot on. You'll be hitting replay for hours listening to this disc.

A world music perspective that breathes brand new life into great, great songs. Think you know these tunes? Give a listen. Le clearly had the message of the times, the zeitgeist of that age, at heart in putting this together. This is a masterpiece, right up there with Purple and Tales From Viet Nam.

O. Dubhthaigh, North Rustico, Pei, Canada

A vibrant collection of songs of freedom !

4.0 out of 5 stars

"Songs of Freedom" isn't an album featuring standard cover versions. Instead, familiar melodies are introduced with great respect to pulsating new sound streams from all over the world. Nguyên Lê takes the liberty to unearth these icons of pop and rock history from their dust (or gold) covered depths and brings them to the present day and to the global village, with the help of his own formidable musical prowess as well as many exceptional guests from all over the world who provide support in his band. With these 15 songs of freedom, Nguyên Lê impressively brings together a wide and previously unheard range these of individuals and sounds from various different origins - West merges with East, North with South, great vocals with instrumental virtuosity and the melodic legacy of the past with the sound of the future.

Guiseppe, Italy