No punches pulled
Reviewed November 2005
It's Mostly Residual
By Cuong Vu
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Trumpeter Cuong Vu is best know for his work with high profile jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, a four-year sideman gig that has included work on two first-rate Metheny CDs ("Speaking of Now" and "The Way Up") and two extended world tours. Stepping out on his own on his recent release, "It's Mostly Residual," Vu has invited another innovative guitarist, Bill Frisell, to join his core trio, for a set that careens off in a completely different direction from the lush harmonies and smooth rhythms of the Metheny discs.
This is adventurous stuff. A good deal of Vu's blowing is wired up and processed, shaping sonorities that you wouldn't associate with the trumpet, harsh and sharp one minute, wailing like a synthesizer in the Twilight Zone the next. He's found a kindred soul in Frisell a guitarist who is probably second to only Pat Metheny is terms of profile on the jazz scene. But where some of Frisell's best-received sets are his seamlessly crafted subtle Americana forays, on "It's Mostly Residual" he cuts loose. Whether he does so to keep up with Vu or whether Vu is blowing hard and jagged to match chops with Frisell is anybody's guess. Let's call it a competitive collaboration, on a tune like "Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse," that sounds like a power guitar jam band in a particularly inspired and, of course, neurotic mood, with Vu blowing guitar-like notes and Frisell slashing trumpet-like blasts off his strings.
But it's not all quite that full force of a gale. "Patchwork" has an almost pastoral feeling, a lyrical horn and relaxed electric guitar in front of bumpy rhythm. Then there's "Brittle Like Twigs" that cranks the intensity up again, full of sharp trumpet edges in front of a pounding beat that wanes to let Frisell have his way on an abstract statement that leads back to hard-hitting drums and Vu's edgy horn work, sort of like the hard funk feeling on Miles Davis "Jack Johnson" disc, with a loosening up some of the nuts and bolts in the bass/drum rhythm, giving it a freer feel.
An interesting and innovative sound trumpeter Cuong Vu going for it, no punches pulled.
Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).