When trumpeter/composer Cuong Vu became a member of the Pat Metheny Grouphe contributed to Speaking Of Now (Warner Bros., 2002) and The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005)it came as a bit of a shock to anyone familiar with his work in the downtown New York City scene. While Pat Metheny has made music that fits in with Knitting Factory acts, the PMG always had a big, wide-screen approach. Their World Music sounds and rhythms and breezy melodies gave them a broad appeal rare in jazz music. But it turns out that hearing the Pat Metheny Group's Travels (ECM, 1983) as a teenager was the inspiration for Vu's musical career path. The two planned to record a collaborative project while Vu was in the band, but it wound up taking 13 years for it to happen.
The results are exactly what the album title promises: Cuong Vu's trio with guest. Most of the music is composed by Vu, so it's very much Metheny playing within Vu's concept. Metheny is such a strong musical personality that he can't avoid putting his stamp on the session. But he's also drawn into musical circumstances different from the ones he usually sets up for himself as leader. Electric bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Ted Poor are a formidable rhythm section, with a contemporary sensibility. They can swing or rock, and they bring a kind of punk energy to the music. So it's not surprising that Metheny favors over-driven and synthesizer guitar tones more than usual on the date. "Acid Kiss" opens the album, and right out of the gate it builds to one of Metheny's patented raging, apocalyptic synthesizer guitar solosa move that is usually reserved for the end of a set.
There are two ballads as well: "Seeds of Doubt" and "Let's Get Back." The latter tune is the most conventional track: it could almost be described as a "power ballad." "Tiny Little Pieces" is a rubato song that justifies its title by gradually falling apart at the end. Metheny's sole compositional contribution ("Telescope") sounds like it was written for Vu. He takes the lead in a typically melodic Metheny head, then the solos build to squealing trumpet on top of overdriven guitar chords. The final tune is Andrew D'Angelo's "Tune Blues," which is both a blues and a free blow, with some modern harmonic twists. It's no surprise that this bunch sounds great playing the blues, too. Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny is a complete success, a treat for fans of both musicians.
Acid Kiss; Not Crazy (Just Giddy Upping); Seeds Of Doubt; Tiny Little Pieces;
Telescope; Let's Get Back; Tune Blues.
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