COMPOSERS: Cuong Vu
ALBUM TITLE: Cuong Vu
PERFORMER: Cuong Vu (t, v), Jamie Saft (ky), Stomu Takeishi (el-b), Jim Black (d, perc)
CATALOGUE NO: 12002
Cuong Vu has established himself since the mid-Nineties as one of the freshest and most original trumpeters of today. His work with the likes of Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas, Bobby Previte et al reveals a quietly virtuosic, economical, consistently elegant player; here, on his debut album as a leader, he seizes the opportunity to create his own sound-world with an eagerness that suggests lengthy and thoughtful gestation.
Vu is of Vietnamese extraction, but was raised in Seattle, and his plaintive, often hauntingly ethereal melodies, tellingly contrasted with the scurrying, emphatic rhythm-section work of Stomu Takeishi and powerhouse drummer Jim Black, clearly reflect his early musical influences.
Added to this intriguing mix is an interest in improvised music, nurtured at the New England Conservatory under composer/theorist George Russell, and the result is one of the most adventurous, distinctive recording debuts of recent years, blending nervy funk with dreamy, drifting melodies, vigorous street beats with free-floating delicacy.
Jamie Saft’s various keyboard sounds, from the fuzzy clank of the Fender Rhodes to the rippling lyricism of the conventional acoustic piano, are a key element, but it is Vu himself, whether playing spearing yet subtly understated trumpet or – on one track – singing with plaintive restraint, who is at the heart of things throughout, bringing an admirably varied set of idiosyncratic but vivid and compelling compositions to life. Chris Parker