Trumpeter/composer Cuong Vu has rapidly become one of the rising stars or perhaps bright voices within the burgeoning and thoroughly adventurous New York City "Downtown Scene" modern jazz circuit. Born in Vietnam and reared in Seattle, WA. Mr. Vu displays remarkable versatility as a musician who exhibits a true renaissance spirit, emanating from influences that span classical, pop and jazz genres. With his debut release titled Bound, Vu melds lustrous tonalities and lyrically rich lines with the often turbulent and thoroughly striking support provided by fellow New York City based virtuosos, drummer Jim Black, electric bassist Stomu Takeishi and keyboard whiz Jamie Saft.
On the opener, "Two," Vu articulates poignant, expressive lines in linear fashion atop steaming rhythms and Jamie Saft's endearing yet gritty and heavily amplified Fender Rhodes electric piano. Here, Saft recreates that early '70s jazz/fusion Fender Rhodes sound while simultaneously injecting foxy idiosyncrasies along with a sinewy style of execution. Vu's composition "Still Ragged" features the trumpeter's ripping lines and expansive phraseology atop solid backbeats as this piece playfully evolves into a free-jazz romp, propelled by Saft's swirling arpeggios and percussive block chords while performing on the acoustic piano. Vu's vocalizing on the title track offers the listener a slight diversion via his airy, melodic vocals that intertwine with Saft's ethereal electronic treatments as the musicians eventually increase the throttle thanks to the vigorous rhythms and heated exchanges. "Acid Kiss" boasts a funk/rock '70s vibe complete with a counterbalancing pulse, roaring forward motion and Vu's resonant mid-register phrasing as the band generates tons of impact while performing with spirited conviction.
Bound is an impressive freshman release from a musician who possesses "boundless" creativity. Along with his venerable associates, Cuong Vu fuses an assortment of disparate elements such as devising harmonious extended notes and/or themes that might parallel a symphonic opus or austere trumpet concerto in conjunction with his acute improvisational sensibilities. Overall, Bound is brimming with ingenuity yet also packs a heavyweight punch! Highly recommended - * * * *
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