Seattle-based trumpeter Cuong Vu continues his collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell that began with It's Mostly Residual (AUAND, 2006). His previous 4Tet release, Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs (RareNoise Records, 2017), was also made by the same personnel. But this time, instead of interpretations of an outside composer, every group member contributes compositionally, including Vu, Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor. Vu emphasizes that this is very much a collective project; his role as "leader" was basically logistics.
Poor's "All That's Left Of Me Is You" opens the set in a reflective mood, with a romantic melody that recalls a ballad from the Great American Songbook. It's mainly a feature for Vu, with the writer restrained on brushes. Like all of the music here it is strongly driven by melody. Poor's "Alive" follows, the longest track at nine minutes. Its swinging ostinato groove gives great support to trumpet and guitar solos; Frisell uncorks his trademark overdriven approach, complete with backwards delay effects. Bergman's sole contribution is "Must Concentrate," on which he also plays additional guitars. Those rhythm parts provide a bed for Frisell and Vu, who build together to a dramatic bridge. The piece ends on a gentle coda for Bergman and Frisell's guitars.
The leader's compositions are together towards the end, with the rubato "Round And Round" centering on guitar and trumpet. "March Of The Owl And The Bat" doesn't sound much like a march, but it is a rhythmic workout for the whole band. As the title implies, "Round And Round (Back Around)" is an impressionistic reprise, making the entire sequence a kind of long ABA song form. Like his earlier "Look, Listen," Frisell's closing compositions "Long Ago" and "Far From Here" come from his folk-like, Americana bag. He solos a bit, but largely defers to the trumpet.
Ultimately, that is the story of the entire album: much more song-oriented than solo-driven, and more introverted than extroverted. The whole band is playing for the songa beautiful thing.
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.
Cuong Vu: trumpet; Bill Frisell: guitar; Luke Bergman: bass, guitar (4); Ted Poor: drums, Fender Rhodes (5).
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