Cuong Vu: Vu-Tet (2008)
Cuong Vu has long established his reputation as an adventurous musician who takes his compositions and his trumpet playing into constantly evolving worlds. His is a constant forging of the new and different, traits that he wraps in thought-provoking schematic concepts that include jazz, rock and whatever else that grabs his fancy, as long as it stimulates the framework of his composition.
The elliptical force of the band is seen in all its majestic power on "Accelerated Thoughts. Vu vents a torrid gale of notes that swirl, cut, dip and incense even as his flurries pour out in a blur. In that whirlwind comes a strong harmonic center and the melody which drives the primary impulse. The other players have long cast their presence as avid inventors and they don't blunt that edge. Ted Poor rides the cymbals in a resplendent splash of color and gets into a conversation with bassist Stomu Takeishi, the two ends of the sound spectrum blending in exhilarating energy. Chris Speed gets the tenor saxophone riding on the melody, reinvents it and whips out contrasting details with Vu bringing in the zip and the zap that close the tune.
The electronic sound of the trumpet is at bay for "Solitary Confinement. Starting out as a dreamy ballad, the tune gets lit by Vu. He gives the melody a full body, opening it with warmth before nudging it into a fuller dimension, pushed on by the rhythmic complexities of Poor. Takeishi adds to the change in mood with the whoop of the bass, and Poor picks up the clarinet and adds to the contrast with his liquid tones. The elements may seem disparate, but they lock in cleanly to make for an effective and cogent excursion.
Now I Know (For Vina) has a captivating melody. The ballad is given a lot of space and an orchestral sound. Nothing is rushed, even as the groove gets deeper along the way and locks in on the intensity. The impact is stunning.
Vu continues to enthrall with his writing, his playing and his band.
Track Listing: Intro, Accelerated Thoughts; Solitary Confinement; Just a Memory; Never, Ever, Ever; Now I Know (for Vina); I Promise.
Personnel: Cuong Vu: trumpet; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Ted Poor: drums; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet.