US Jazz Quartet plays Vietnamese classics

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Ari Roland Jazz Quartet and Vietnamese artists Kim Luyen and Anh Tan (in white from R to L) performing at the  Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music.

On Tuesday night (April 26), the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet performed at the Conservatory of Music in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1.

The American Jazz ensemble played alongside four traditional Vietnamese artists.

Tran Manh Tuan played saxophone and Kim Luyen sang traditional A Dao songs. Roland played two Quan ho Bac Ninh songs (traditional Northern folk songs).

Following roughly 10 minutes of rehearsal, the group took the stage and jammed together.

At a press conference held Monday in Ho Chi Minh City, Roland and his band announced their excitement at having been invited to serve as "jazz ambassadors" for the US State Department.

During their short stop in HCMC, the Roland quartet also lectured at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music.

"We perform half of the year in New York and spend five months touring," said Roland. "The great thing about jazz is that individually, you can express emotion to the audience and think about the group at the same time."

Roland said of his experience with a group of local artists, "After five minutes we became brothers and sisters, even though they don't speak English."

On Tuesday night, the group took the stage before a diverse audience, along with four Vietnamese musicians.

They began with a straight set of American standards - including songs from Louis Armstrong, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.

"I like the rhythms of this music they're so diversified," said La Minh Hien, 15, of the Mai Am Tre Xanh (Green Bamboo House), a charity organization in HCMC that helps orphans and other disadvantaged children. "Some of the songs remind me of my homeland while others are so new and take me to a world I have never been to."

La said it was the first time he, and his friends had seen a live jazz performance.

Then, the quartet joined their Vietnamese counterparts in a classical rendition of a pair of Hat Xam songs - a classical genre, traditionally sung by blind minstrel bands.

The show continued with a vivid version of Trang non (Young moon) by Tran Manh Tuan.

Roland and his band will perform at the Youth Theater in Hanoi on April 28.

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