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QUYEN VAN MINH - BINH MINH JAZZ CLUB

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Breaking into Jazz

Oct 2, 2007

BreakingThe Guide - There are a lot of places in Hanoi where one can eat and some where you also get a sort of floor show with what are always ‘famous singers’. There are however few places that offer something uniquely different and perhaps in keeping with what can be universally enjoyed by Vietnamese and Westerners combined.

One of these venues is the Jazz Club at 31 Luong Van Can St. The Hanoian fixture of Quyen Van Minh has been bringing jazz to Hanoi from the club since 1996.

Now to get a real feel for how good our Mr Minh is, you have to understand the passion of someone who was playing

the classical guitar at 13, then the clarinet and whose first professional engagements were with an army band. Known now mainly for his various saxophones, in 1987 he went to Berlin to perform in a jazz concert there and of course has played with all the greats at the recent EU-sponsored jazz festivals in Vietnam.

The jazz club features a picture of another famous saxophone player, Bill Clinton, but bears the inscription that he did not have time to visit the jazz Club during his Hanoi visit. I’m sure he would have enjoyed it but that is the problem with being famous. Perhaps next time when he is a house husband he will have more time.

But Mr Minh, originally self-taught, passes along his passion. Not only has he taught a stream of young musicians and given them an opportunity to cut their teeth with the jam sessions at his establishment, notwithstanding his role as first jazz/sax instructor at the Hanoi Conservatorium, but some of us have just had the surreal experience of watching him on the sax along with a mature student who had only taken up the sax less then two years ago.

Christine Mitre (Kris) launches her first CD, Maestro Please, at what was also her birthday bash. She had never studied music before, did not read music and never played any sort of instrument. To then sit in the audience while she blew out renditions from her CD was quite astounding. OK, so better known to fans sitting in a dentist’s chair, Kris playing a sax duet with Minh was one thing but she also featured her solo numbers and while it may not have been up there with a Dave Brubeck extravaganza, it would easily have passed as a commercial performance. The CD includes such favourites as My Prayer, Autumn Leaves, C’Est Si Bon and Spanish Eyes – hard to compete with when we all have heard the original recordings.

By the end of the evening and the free-flowing wine it was smiles all round, as of course there would be when both your music and teeth are being taken care of. When not performing, ‘Kris’ and husband Michel provide dental care in Hanoi.

Peter Nelson
Nosher-Nelson@yahoo.com

 

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