Bích Vân: Simply Love & Seasons of Love

2015 marks a productive year for Bích Vân. After releasing her superb solo, Kiếp Nào Có Yêu Nhau, to her Vietnamese audience, she branches out with two collaborative projects: Simply Love with her “best friend and best love” Sean Buhr and Seasons of Love with an Australian-Vietnamese pianist and arranger Nguyễn Vân Anh.

Simply Love celebrates the romantic relationship between Vân and Sean. Right off the opening track, the two lovebirds fly to the moon in unison with the straightforward swinging accompaniment: pianist Daniel Vũ, guitarist Will Brahm (who also provides a savory solo), bassist Jordan Richards, and drummer Jimmy Trần. Once landed to the moon, they slow down with a heartfelt duet on the classic ballad “My Funny Valentine.” Sean’s charming baritone and Vân’s sensational soprano are a match made in heaven and in life. The companies remain the same, but with the addition of the heart-rending sawing strings from cellist Leah McIntire-Barnett.

After the Latin-flavor “Sway” and the swinging “Cheek to Cheek,” the album turns toward romantic pop. “Renewed,” an original ballad from Sean, recounts their intimate relationship: “I always saw you as a friendly friend of mine / Never thought that you would be the one I hold at night.” The affectionate covers of “Love Me Tender,” “Lovesong,” “Careless Whisper,” and “All the Way,” are too poppy for my taste, but I can hear they being played at weddings.

Seasons of Love, on the other hand, is an excellent album to be experienced in its entirety. With songs from Miss Saigon to The Wizard of Oz to Les Misérables to Wicked, Vân Anh and Bích Vân has crafted a musical journey that gives listeners a taste of broadway. By keeping the arrangements simple and contemporary, Vân Anh makes the tunes more approachable beyond the broadway aficionados. Her master of understatement could be heard on “Habanera/El Choclo” (from Carmen). Because the rhythm section—consists of guitarist Daniel Maher, drummer Pat Madden, and bassist Johnny Lucas—is already strong and infectious, Vân Anh only plays a few high keys to complement Bích Vân’s soprano. Both Deniel’s and Vân Anh’s solo are hypnotizing, particularly when she plays her classical chops.

“My Favorite Things” is an outstanding rework of the show tune from The Sound of Music. The modern backbeat is groovy and Vân Anh’s solo is exhilarating. The track that puts the female duo power on display, however, is from My Fair Lady’s “I Could Have Danced All Night.” They both are in their classical elements and they feed off each other’s vibes note for note. As the album reaches its closing, “Time to Say Goodbye,” it is hard to let go of the experience.

If you’re looking for some tunes to get into the holiday mood, don’t miss out this Seasons of Love. You won’t be disappointed.