Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny , due May 6, 2016, on Nonesuch Records, joins guitarist, composer, and bandleader Pat Metheny with a trio led by longtime Pat Metheny Group trumpeter Cuong Vu . The album comprises five tunes written by Vu plus one by Metheny and one by Andrew D'Angelo. The Cuong Vu Trio includes Stomu Takeishi on bass and Ted Poor on drums. Metheny says of his record with the Trio, "This project is something that Cuong and I have talked about doing for years. For as much as I loved what Cuong has brought to my bands along the way, I always wondered what it would be like to join his group for a project, to see what I might be able to offer those guys. Cuong came up with a great set of tunes for the project, and we all met in NYC for a few days and recorded this music quite quickly and spontaneously." Vu, who first heard a cassette of Metheny's Travels as a teenager and credits it for leading him into a career in music, adds: "Pat came to the session and killed it, taking us to different territories. We (the Trio) assimilated his sound into ours and made music that still felt uniquely ours." The trumpeter has played with a wide range of artists, including Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Dave Douglas, Myra Melford, Cibo Matto, and Mitchell Froom.
Personnel: Cuong Vu 4-Tet (trumpet); Pat Metheny (guitar); Ted Poor (drums).
Audio Mixer: Pete Karam.
Liner Note Authors: Cuong Vu 4-Tet; Pat Metheny.
Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, NY (02/04/2015-02/06/2015).
Despite the somewhat misleading title, Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny, trumpeter Cuong Vu has a lengthy history with the legendary jazz guitarist that goes back to Metheny's Grammy-winning 2002 album, Speaking of Now. Since then, Vu has played with Metheny enough that he is a regular part of the conversation when discussing the guitarist's more adventurous contemporary works. Despite his pedigree, having graduated from the New England Conservatory and worked with such luminaries as David Bowie, Myra Melford, Laurie Anderson, and others, Vu is a maverick. A highly gifted, forward-thinking musician, Vu often eschews the more clarion, declarative aspects of his chosen instrument in favor of macabre growls, dampened tones, and improvisatory lines that skitter forth with the mad convulsions of a housefly. Pairing him with the uber-controlled precision of Metheny might seem like an odd choice at first. A paragon of contemporary jazz, Metheny is known more for his warm tone and clean lines than downtown N.Y.C. edginess. However, he is also a mutative artist whose skills bridge wide stylistic plains from languid folk to swinging post-bop and aggressive fusion. It's also easy to forget that Metheny played on the late Ornette Coleman's 1986 release Song X, an album of frenetic yet deceptively restrained free jazz that works as a useful touchstone for what Vu and Metheny have created here. Joining the trumpeter and guitarist are Vu's bandmates bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Ted Poor. Together, the quartet plays a set of original songs that straddle the line between ambient tone poems, exploratory modal jazz, and punk-inflected noise jams. The opening "Acid Kiss" brings to mind a '70s sci-fi film, with Vu's mournful trumpet setting the tone as the trio straggles in behind him, each note illuminating the dark alien landscape. In warm contrast, "Seeds of Doubt" finds Vu and Metheny playing in tandem, their crisp, pointillist melody soon giving way to a delicately soaring solo from Metheny. Splitting the difference, cuts like "Tune Blues" and "Not Crazy (Just Giddy Upping)" showcase the group's knack for pushing swinging post-bop in explosive, ear-popping directions. Anchored by Takeishi's thick doom bass and Poor's hyper-kinetic drumming, Metheny and Vu wrangle hold of the harmolodic blues of "Not Crazy (Just Giddy Upping)," body slamming each line until the whole sound is less jazz band and more like Ornette Coleman fronting Iron Maiden. ~ Matt Collar