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Tran Manh Tuan - The best saxophonist in Vietnam    
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Tran Manh Tuan - The best saxophonist in Vietnam
Jul 10 2017

Saxophonist Tran Manh Tuan has spent more than 30 years playing the saxophone and he now is one of the most successful saxophonists in Vietnam. He has performed at many great events and music festivals both at home and abroad.

Anyone who attends a performance by Tran Manh Tuan will be mesmerized by melodies of jazz from his saxophone that the artist plays with much feeling. Tran Manh Tuan was born into a family with a tradition in the performing arts.

His father, mother and sister are all stage performers of the traditional “Cai luong” (reformed theatre). Yet, he found his own musical love in jazz and at the age of ten Tuan started performing solo saxophone on the stage.

Tuan said: “I have played jazz on the saxophone since I was eight years old but I did not understand what jazz was. The artists of previous generations also did not have a thorough knowledge about this music genre. Therefore, I only accumulated a little knowledge about jazz until 1989 when I had a chance to meet with a troupe of instrumentalists from France, I learned that jazz is a form of impromptu music.”

Before becoming a professional Jazz performer, Tran Manh Tuan worked as a cadre in the Hanoi Tourism Company. Then, he left his job and signed a short-term contract to perform saxophone in the Vietnam Central Light Music Theatre.

When his contract ended, he started earning his living by performing at bars, clubs and events. In 1994, he became the first Vietnamese musician to receive a scholarship from the Berklee College of Music in the US.  

After five years studying in the US, Tuan returned home in 1999 with a desire to introduce jazz to the Vietnamese people and he was invited to teach the saxophone at the Military College of Arts and Culture.

After that, he spent all his time composing, harmonizing and orchestrating and performing both at home and abroad. He produced first albums titled “Loi ru mat em”, “Bien khat” and “Ha trang” which had great success.

In 2002, Tran Manh Tuan and his family moved to live in Ho Chi Minh City and he taught at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music. In 2005, he established his club called “Jazz Saxn’ Art” in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City to satisfy his passion.

It is the place where he, his friends and jazz lovers meet together and float in jazz melodies. “The more you listen to and play jazz, the more you will be close to it. The simple reason is that jazz is an impromptu music that requires the artist’s creativeness.

To create sounds that can evoke the feeling of the audience, the artists must be crazy about music, passionate with the flute, stirred by the drum beats, harmonizing with the piano and excited about the saxophone,” said Tuan.

Tuan is capable of combining any music genres and music instrumentals into jazz. He said that there are only a few artists performing jazz in Vietnam because it is a new music genre and not like the sweet and melodious lyrics of pop so the audience feels it is difficult to listen to and understand.

Jazz performers must have thorough music knowledge and reveal their soul, feeling, sentiment and passion in an impromptu manner. In turn, the audience also must know how to perceive the artists’ feelings.

Besides the passion for performing, Tuan is known as a saxophone collector. At present, he has hundreds of saxophones, including 70-80 year old ones with delicate sculptured patterns. In 2005, he was recognized as the collector with the largest number of saxophones in Vietnam by the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records.

During his free time, he likes to go to pagodas with his family and talk with Buddhist monks. He organized some performances at pagodas in which he combined the saxophone with bells to create an interesting and unique jazz concert.

In early 2013, Tuan made the debut of the Saigon Big Band, the first one of its kind in Vietnam. For the first time, Ho Chi Minh City has a jazz orchestra meeting the big-band standards, which can perform classical music works of the world and Vietnam with the highest quality. The band consists of veteran jazz artists of Saigon in the past 30 years and young artists who won domestic and international awards in recent years.

With this playground, Tuan wants to gather talented jazz performers in Ho Chi Minh City to organize large-scale performances, introducing Vietnamese music to the world. He desires to create a genre of jazz imbued with both traditional and contemporary features that require great effort. - Vietnamnet