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Cuong Vu 4Tet: Change In The Air

Dan McClenaghan By

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Trumpeter Cuong Vu introduced this particular 4tet in 2017, with Ballet: The Music of Michael Gibbs (RareNoiseRecords). An all star affair that included guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor, it seemed to signal something of a gentler Cuong Vu, with a music that had a spaciousness, patience and ruminative quality that didn't show in outings like the in-your-face Agogic (Table and Chairs Music, 2011), the deep space electronics of Vu-tet ( ArtistShare, 2017,) or the eerie and modernistic metal rock assault of Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny (Nonesuch, 2016).

The Metheny and Frisell teamings proved that Vu plays very well with guitarists, making captivating metal-on-metal sounds. That continues with Change In the Air, with Frisell and the 4Tet responsible for Ballet: The Music of Michael Gibbs.

The set opens with "All that's Left of Me Is You," penned by the group's drummer, Ted Poor. It's a restful and introspective sound, like what could be expected from the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, minus the melancholy. This is followed up by a relentless, trudging power guitar/ rock rhythms anthem, "Alive," also written by Poor.

The 4Tet's previous relase dealt with the music of one writer: Michael Gibbs. On Change in The Air Vu engages all his bandmates for compositional input, adding three of his own tunes to the mix. Frisell contributes three tunes, including "Look, Listen," melding the glowing sustain and interaction of guitar and trumpet in a forward-leaning ballad.

Bassist Bergman presents his "Must Concentrate," a mid-tempo groove that gathers momentum that culminates in a shouting to the rooftops before it tapers back down to pensive close.

Vu's "Round and Round" sounds nothing like the similarly-titled Chuck Berry song. It is, instead, a slow, wandering search, a beautiful abstraction shot through with loose group interweavings; while his "March Of The Owl And Bat" has a jumpy, agitated atmosphere, leading into his soothing "Round And Round (Back Around)."

Like all Cuong Vu albums, Change In The Air maintains a cohesive mood and consistently mesmerizing group chemistry from beginning to end, even with four tunesmiths chipping into the mix. Frisell says a big part of the success to this group dynamic is: "We listen." Simple as that.

Track Listing: All That's Left of Me Is You; Alive; Look, Listen; Must Concentrate; Lately; Round and Round; March of the Owl and the Bat; Round and round (Back Around); Long Ago; Far from Here.

Personnel: Cuong Vu: trumpet; Bill Frisell: guitar; Luke Bergman: bass, guitar (4); Ted Poor: drums, Fender Rhodes (5).

Title: Change in the Air | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: RareNoiseRecords

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