Hats off to Jaspas in District 2 and Chris Lee for putting on this extremely interesting event. This was a recital by Rudolph Kremer from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Violin ably assisted by Akaratcht Dang on guitar. They presented Piazzolla’s Suite, ‘The History of the Tango’.
The venue was really well suited to this kind of evening. The indoor air-conditioned restaurant part of Jaspas was converted to an informal kind music venue. A sort of a cross between a folk club and a small recital room; it worked perfectly, with about 50 seats, all very close to the performers. It is interesting to see this kind of event put on by Jaspas and I hope they are encouraged to try more. This was well patronised and I’m sure Jaspas will have been encouraged by such a successful night. People are constantly bemoaning the lack of live music in Ho Chi Minh City, well as always the message is, use it or lose it.
The performance was completely acoustic, something that is close to my heart. I have performed in enough folk clubs over the years without a PA and understand the difficulties. It asks questions of an audience and the crowd in Jaspas, responded.
The evening began with some standards from the pen of people like Henry Mancini and Cole Porter and the vocal chords of Frank Sinatra. Kremer’s technique was quite frankly beautiful, one of the cleanest violin sounds I’ve heard. He had the audience in his thrall from the first note. Interestingly, there were a number of children in the audience and most were quiet. I managed to sit behind one who wasn’t and her elderly relative didn’t help by continually talking to her. Why it is so hard for adults to sit quietly for two short sets of beautiful music will always remain a mystery to me, but I won’t dwell on that; It was but a minor distraction.
This duo’s rendition of Cole Porter’s classic “Night and Day” was an utter delight. Akaratcht Dang’s guitar accompaniments were well thought out and unobtrusive, allowing the violin to retain centre stage. It was followed by “All of Me” the Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons’ classic popular song from the 1930s. A couple of tunes that were irritatingly familiar but ones that I couldn’t bring to mind were next up, all executed with the same superb level of craftsmanship.
Lifting the tempo slightly the Brazilian bossa nova song “The Girl From Ipanema” was well received. The tune was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and the familiar English lyrics were added by Norman Gimbel. This highly popular song is considered to be the second most recorded song in the world after the Beatles’ Yesterday, it was obviously that the mainly Vietnamese audience knew it well. After this we went to the interval.
The second half of the performance was all about Argentina and the history of the Tango. This is certainly not my area of expertise but the musicians held my attention fully. It is evocative music though and the way that the violin and guitar played off each other was most enjoyable. I particularly liked some of the syncopated sections. As I say I am not very familiar with this kind of music, but it was delightful. If anything the audience were even quieter for the second half, which is always a sign of musicians at the peak of their craft.
The slow numbers were met by silent enjoyment from the audience and the the musicians knew when to pick up the tempo a wee bit to keep the crowd. I loved this. This was a most unexpected evening and one that I hope will be repeated and developed. To have musicians of this standard in District 2 is a real coup. I’ll sign off exactly the way I started . . . Hats off to Jaspas.