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Artist Profiles

Cuong Vu: More Than Just Notes

By Published: May 2, 2008
Exposure to a different audience was part of Vu's motivation for joining the Pat Metheny Group in 2002 for two CDs and tours. Though a fan of his music, Vu wasn't sure he would fit in, having rejected that kind of straight-ahead playing. But Metheny sensed a connection. Not wanting to embarrass himself or the group, Vu spent hours every day on tour practicing those techniques and styles again, taking ownership of them.

Though there hasn't been much audience crossover, touring with Metheny opened Vu's eyes to the dwindling support and declining audiences for jazz, even for an artist of his renown. Back in NYC, venues were disappearing and Vu hadn't been playing many gigs as a leader. Ultimately, he moved back west.

Cuong Vu

Since then, he's started teaching at the University of Washington. Somewhat ironically, given his rebelliousness, Vu stresses basics so that his students have strong foundations for building their sound. He's impressed with their openness and hopes to foster a creative music scene there.

His new CD, Vu-Tet, was released in early 2008 on the ArtistShare label. This time, the trio was joined by Speed. The two developed an affinity over the years in Speed's yeah NO group and their complementary and sympathetic unison lines propel the music. For now, these projects are enough for Vu, who prefers to work with the same tight-knit unit, rather than constantly changing groups. Re-energized and focused, Vu muses, "I'm working so hard, I'm still growing."

Selected Discography

Cuong Vu, Vu-Tet (ArtistShare, 2007)

Cuong Vu, It's Mostly Residual (ArtistShare, 2005)

Chris Speed's yeah NO, Swell Henry (Squealer, 2004)

Cuong Vu, This, This and That (Pure/Come and Play with Me) (Knitting Factory/ArtistShare, 2000-1)

Cuong Vu, Bound (OmniTone, 1999)

Jamie Saft/Cuong Vu, Ragged Jack (Avant, 1995)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Valerie Trucchia (©2000)
Bottom Photo: Frank Rubolino

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