Cuong Vu's trademark as a composer is gradually building tunes that intensify toward the middle and include elements of free jazz and jazz-rock. The key is to have a band that can pull off the demands of such superficially simple yet ultimately complex music. Having the right players makes Vu's It's Mostly Residual a success.
Ted Poor's percussion and Bill Frisell's initially subtle guitar give the title tune an elegiac feeling. Then Vu soars and a percussive burst leads into Frisell's emotionally charged and dazzling fusion riff. Vu's urgent five-note figure and Frisell's shrieking scratching riffs on the frenetic "Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse blast away any suggestion of conventional structure. Poor's Tommy-gun reports on drums and Stomu Takeishi's bass growling at the bottom provide strong underpinnings.
"Patchwork finds Vu at his moodiest and most brooding. Frisell's wails, scratches and shrieks add wicked tension to the framework, while Takeishi and Poor keep the cauldron brewing behind them, creating an ominous aura which is also found on "Brittle, Like Twigs. "Chitter Chatter begins with what sounds like the band tuning up, the spaces being filled by various electronic effects. The sense of construction and careful building withing Vu's writing is most prevalent here; all of the disparate elements gradually cohere. Vu's trumpet is dolorous and brooding once again on "Blur, always clear, yet oddly detached from the other musical elements.
But more than anything else, Frisell's variegated guitar stylings are what give It's Mostly Residual its drive. Vu and Frisell are excellent partners in crime throughout the disc, relentlessly inventive, matching and pushing each other every note of the way.
It's Mostly Residual; Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse; Patchwork; Brittle, Like Twigs; Chitter Chatter; Blur.
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