Jazz Violinist Billy Bang Releases Second Work in His Vietnam Trilogy
“This one really is different,” says jazz violinist Billy Bang, 57, of his Vietnam: Reflections, part two of an ambitious musical trilogy based on his experiences as a Vietnam veteran. Part one, 2002’s powerful Vietnam—The Aftermath (Justin Time Records), won critical raves and found an audience among fans of experimental jazz and others touched by the Vietnam experience.
Of the new material, Bang says, “It’s still in the same vein of the first CD, but it is remarkably different. With the first one, writing that music was like undergoing shock treatment, it was the first time I’d opened up and revisited those memories with that much honesty. By the time I was ready for part two, the emotions were different.
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“This one is calmer, more reflective. It’s more about who I was when I came home from Vietnam than who I was when I was in Vietnam.”
The new CD features traditional Vietnamese tunes as well, and his new band includes two Vietnamese musicians, a fact that underscores the material’s conciliatory attitude. Part three—which will include a film documentary and will be recorded in Vietnam—reflects the sense of healing that Bang, drafted into the army shortly after graduating from high school, has experienced since releasing the first CD.
“I do feel healed, or part-way healed,” he says. “And this project is the reason why. For years I was carrying so much guilt and anger, but I worked a lot of that out doing the first record, and then just being able to talk about Vietnam, finally, made me bring hidden things to the forefront of my mind. The traumas I experienced in Vietnam no longer have the same hold on me.
“I’m very happy to say that.”