In association with IF Music, BBE Music presents Lucky Man: music from the eponymous documentary film, charting jazz violinist and Vietnam veteran Billy Bang’s brave return to the country, 40 years after the War.
The film Lucky Man by Jean-Marie Boulet and Markus Hansen follows Billy Bang as he returns to the battlefields of his past, this time with a violin in-hand instead of a rifle. The documentary follows Billy as he travels the length and breadth of Vietnam to collaborate with local musicians, discover the culture he never got to experience the first time around, and to try to find some closure for the haunting trauma that still lingers within.
The trip took place in 2008, three years before Billy Bang’s passing and these never-before released field recordings, lovingly polished at The Carvery studio in London, capture the musician’s many poignant musical encounters along the way. The journey took him from Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, through to the highlands and the Banhar and Jorai gongs of the Montagnards, north across the 17th parallel, climaxing with ‘Mystery of the Mekong’, his collaboration with the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra.
The album Lucky Man is composed of recordings captured throughout Billy Bang’s travels in Vietnam, interspersed with his candid thoughts about music, art, war, and his return to the country. Trần Mạnh Tuấn, the saxophonist featured on ‘Jungle Lullaby’ is well known in Saigon, where he owns a club called Sax n’Art, in which the live collaboration was recorded. In the more rural Kon Tum province, The Banhar Gong Group of Kuntum perform one of their traditional pieces, over which Billy’s off-the-cuff improvisation simply soars. The Phu Dong Family Band (a collective comprising an incredible 25 members of leader Duc Dau’s family) appears on ‘New Saigon Phunk’ and ‘Song for Don Cherry’, recorded in their native Ho Chi Minh City. Duc Dau is also a collector of ancient traditional instruments, and he plays a primitive stone Lithophone called a Dan Da with Billy in an energetic and exciting live jam that feels more like a duel at points.