Vietnamese Smoothie

Does it take an American to do Vietnamese music justice? Good question. Although I am flattered that a foreign musician such as Lorn Leber would take Vietnamese well-known ballads and jazzed them up, he didn’t push Falling Autumn far enough for the aficionados. On the opening “Winter Night,” the smooth saxophone plays the exact written melody. It takes the guitar half way into the tune to play some departed improvisation. “Rain in Sai Gon, Rain in Ha Noi” is the only number that Leber reconstructs the original and makes it his own. While the bluesiness in “The Stranger in Me” saved the track from being a hot-tub jazz—thanks to the hypnotic bass lines and gorgeous keyboard licks—the rest have fallen into that category. Placing Leber’s rendition of “My Funny Valentine” and “Autumn Leaves” against Miles Davis’s, the difference is between the sky and the abyss.