They seem uncongenial. Duc Tuan is a soulful ballad crooner while Ho Ngoc Ha is an r&b/pop chick. Yet, their collaborative effort on Ao Anh testifies that opposites can amalgamate. Despite their creative differences, they both have a unique style of covering standards and an appreciation for jazz that allow them to come in the studio together. They know how to make old tunes sound modern, and they have proved themselves in his Doi Mat Nguoi Son Tay and her Va Em Da Yeu.
Unlike Bang Kieu and Minh Tuyet, Duc Tuan’s clear, high tenor works like lotion on skin with Ho Ngoc Ha’s smoky, low contralto. Their duet rendition of “Ao Anh” is a fusion of soul and sex. Even though Ho Ngoc Ha has a limited range, she knows how to work with her limitation and turns it into her advantage. In “Buon,” her raspy voice is so damn erotic weaving in and out of the bossa-nova orchestration. Even on the playful “Dem Do Thi,” she could maneuver her vocals to fit the happy, shining arrangement. And for Duc Tuan, he gives “Sang Ngang” a heartfelt rendition by floating his charming voice over the keyboard licks and delicate brushworks. By swaggering along side with the slick swing in “Ghen,” he proves to be a versatile singer.
What makes Ao Anh works is the simplicity in both productions and performances. The crisp, clean, and simple arrangements play a major role in resuscitating old-school ballads. If you’re looking for hardcore jazz with scatting, improvisation, and complex syncopation, this is not your cup of tea. If you want to enjoy old tunes with a touch of jazz, however, this album will do the trick. Ao Anh is the sauciest, juiciest cover of standards I have heard so far.