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Paul Zetter – A Birthday Jazz Concert

Jul 7, 2011

Quyen Thien Dac

The new turks of Vietnamese jazz will pay tribute to the father of jazz in Vietnam at the Hanoi Opera House on 11th July.

I caught up with Quyen Thien Dac, leader of the Red River Jazz Band at a rehearsal at Minh’s Jazz Club on Quan Su Street for the forthcoming Birthday concert at the Opera House on 11th July. (See below for ticket availability).

The Birthday celebration is for Dac’s father and the father of Vietnamese jazz, the legendary Quyen Van Minh who’ll be 57 on the 11th. As a birthday present, Dac has chosen to play his father’s favourite standards like My One And Only Love and Work Song and has also arranged for a newly updated performance of his father’s Vietnamese suite.

News 86

‘Mixing Vietnamese and jazz forms is the future of Vietnamese jazz’
The musicians performing in the concert make up a list of the heavyweights of Vietnamese modern jazz. In addition to Dac on saxes we’ll be hearing Nguyen Bao Long on sax, Ha Dinh Huy, drums and Nguyen Tien Manh, piano amongst others.

Now studying his Masters in Jazz at Malmo, Sweden and having already spent 3 years at the prestigious Berkley music and jazz school in the US, Dac is well on the way to achieving his dream of becoming an internationally recognized jazz soloist. But in his quest he is not neglecting jazz in Vietnam. Now on his summer break, he has returned to play this concert, paying tribute to his father and to reunite the Red River Jazz Band.


‘Vietnamese audiences tend to like singers when the lyric guides the meaning but jazz is more of an ensemble form where interaction and improvisation give the meaning’

The story of the birth of jazz in Vietnam is fascinating. In 1980 when Dac’s father Minh was a young, jobbing musician in Hanoi he used to listen to the radio at home searching for international radio stations for something new to listen to even though this was not allowed. To avoid being found out and to get the best radio reception he listened quietly in the kitchen.  One night he tuned into a European radio station that was playing a Benny Goodman tune. Minh was transfixed and immediately tried to transcribe the notes so he could recreate those swinging sounds. The rest, as they say, is history and now 30 years later, the new guardian of Vietnam’s jazz flame, Dac, is paying tribute with the next generation of jazz talents at Hanoi’s prestigious Opera House.

Pha My father did not push me to follow him into jazz’

Dac himself also remembers his own journey into jazz. Although not at all pressured by his father to follow him into jazz, he vividly recalls hearing tenor player Michael Brecker’s album Two Blocks From the Edge for the first time and having the same kind of reaction his father had years earlier. He was hooked. Over the last six years of jazz study his journey has expanded into many different avenues but with primary influences from the likes of John Coltrane, Branford Marsalis, Chris Potter and Joshua Redman.

With a new CD out in several months and the prospect of more concerts in Hanoi and back in Sweden, Dac’s star is definitely in the ascendancy. And the Red River Band are sounding as hot as this Hanoi summer.

As for this reviewer, for me another birthday is looming. The due date of my new daughter is on the same day as the concert. So depending on whose birthday is first I’ll be tapping my foot to the Red River Jazz Band at the Opera House on the 11th or in the hospital delivery room. Whichever it is, there’ll still be at least one birthday to celebrate. So next week look out on Hanoi Grapevine for my jazz review or a picture of my new daughter or both!

Ticket details – Ticket prices: 200.000, 400.000, 500.000 VND.
All Tickets are available at the Hanoi Opera House, 1 Trang Tien and Binh Minh Jazz Club, 65 Quan Su Street. For more details, you can visit Hanoi Grapevine's previous post.

Next week we'll introduce a new CD giveaway competition – a pre-release copy of Dac's new CD and a CD of Quyen Van Minh's Vietnamese Jazz Suite both signed by the artists.

Words and photographs ⓒ Paul Zetter 2011

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