If I were the producer of Asia Entertainment, I would invite Thuy Mi to the annual Mua He Ruc Ro (Radiant Summer) event to showcase our Vietnamese-American multi-talented woman. According to her website and the credits on her album, she is the software engineer, songwriter, singer, guitar player, web designer, and graphic designer. She has everything I ever wanted: a Masters degree, a creative mind, and a handful of original songs. Her other talents, especially web design, are interesting, but they are beyond the scope of this article, and so, I will focus on her music.
As a musician, Thuy Mi is innovative. Her compositional skills, her lyrical spellbinding beauty, and her passion for jazz turn her into a sensation. Her luminescent debut Nhung Vet Chung (rough translation: the Scars of Life) featured ten “tu khuc” (self expression) songs recollecting her personal experience. Her compositions, which are based not on precision but passion, offer the audiences an intimate listening atmosphere. For instance, she pours her heart out on the title track “Nhung Vet Chung.” Accompanied by Thong M. Do’s soft and clear acoustic guitar, her rich, perfectly placed voice enters: “Co mot chang doi buon vo nguyen co / thuong canh la roi, xot nhanh hoa tan / chi mot minh lang le, khoc mot manh doi / ta voi ta thoi” (loose translation: A period of life that is sad without a reason / regret for the fallen leaf, pity for the withered flower / quietly alone, crying for a part of life / by myself and I). She writes lyrics that mirror her life. Through her melancholy voice, she connects with music and reaches the listeners.
Thuy Mi’s fine taste in jazz aesthetics makes her an interesting new songwriter. On “Mot Lan” (One Time), she leads an effortlessly smooth performance that is enhanced by the cascading jazz chord and mellow vibe arranged by Le Tu Phong. Besides the composer herself, the record is molded together with the help of four top-notch vocalists -Tuan Ngoc, Nguyen Khang, Thanh Ha, and Diem Lien – at their best.
Each of the vocalists brings a unique flavor to the record. Tuan Ngoc’s meticulous phrasing and his expressive delivery give spirit to “Em Van Do” (You Still There) and soul to “Em Ve Chi De Xa Toi” (You Come Back To Leave Me). As Nguyen Khang goes sentimental on “Chieu Dong” (Winter Evening), Vu Tru’s violin infuses despondency into the track. Khang’s gravelly voice married to a blues melody creates “Chung Nhu” (Supposedly) to be a masterpiece. While Thanh Ha’s intoxicating timbres match the jazzy chords on “Niu Lay Doi Nhau” (Grab Onto Each Other’s Life), Diem Lien’s thin and delicate voice blends naturally into the glimmering grooves on “Chan” (Bored). Unlike what the title suggested, “Chan” is anything but boring.
Aside from the vocalists and the composer, the album would not be complete without the brilliant production, mostly handled by Le Tu Phong, and two tracks from Ho Dang Long. Their mesmerizing jazzy sounds are the delicious butter that melts inside the hot breads of the vocals. And just like bread and butter, together they have produced an impressive debut that can be complemented by a bottle of fine wine. Nhung Vet Chung raises a glass and toasts to the possible, an aesthetic work that is elegant, intricate, and expansive. Thuy Mi, please keep on feeding us delightful dishes of soul. I am already hungry for more even though I just ate.