No matter who covers Nguyen Anh 9’s “Mua Thu Canh Nau,” Hong Hanh always comes to mind. She owns that track like Tuan Ngoc owns Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Rieng Mot Goc Troi,” Phuong Thanh owns Quoc Hung’s “Trong Vang,” and Quang Dung owns Dieu Huong’s “Vi Do La Em.” So when she rerecords the song in her latest release, Ngo Dau Tinh Da…!, she’s competing with herself. The new version still remains jazzy, but with a bit of funk groove added. Her delivery is softer and the huskiness is lost in her phrasing. Although it sounds refreshing, I still root for the good old bluesy rendition. It still intoxicates me every time.
In addition to “Mua Thu Canh Nau,” the new album features a handful of jazz-arranged numbers that match up quite well with Hong Hanh’s slightly gruff vocals. Her version of Trinh Cong Son’s “Nhin Nhung Mua Thu Di” is soothing, relaxing and perfect for quiet nights. While Nguyen Nam’s “Tinh Ca Cho Em” gets a gorgeous, Brazilian-inspired rhythm, Le Huu Ha’s “Huyen Thoai Nguoi Con Gai” gets to swing with a hypnotic walking bass at the bottom.
On Nguyen Huu Thiet’s “Yeu Nhau Di,” Hong Hanh pours her heart and soul out over the crisp strumming guitar. It’s a perfect album closer that leaves you yearning for more, especially with the way she whispers the last few words. Even though Ngo Dau Tinh Da…! is not a true jazz record, the subtle, understated approach makes it an intimate pleasure to enjoy.