May 2011

Cuong Vu 4-Tet
Leaps of Faith
Origin Records

When not collaborating with top-ranking improvisers like Pat Metheny and Myra Melford, trumpeter Cuong Vu has spent the past 10 years making ethereal, languorous, cinematic music of his own writing. Standards? Not his thing. Not until now, anyway.

At first blush, Leaps of Faith appears to be an about-face for Vu, whose previous albums have featured original tunes and nothing else. But it takes all of a few seconds to realize that when Vu decides to tackle “Body and Soul,” “All the Things You Are” and “My Funny Valentine,” he doesn’t exactly play them. On the contrary, these well-worn classics—chosen, no doubt, because they are well worn—become only the frame for Vu’s dreamy, chaotic wanderings. Only now and then does Vu’s plaintive trumpet touch back down on the melody of any of these tunes, while his two electric bassists, Stomu Takeishi and Luke Bergman, and his drummer, Ted Poor, do everything but play classic jazz. “Body and Soul” opens, in fact, with a giant, defiant echo effect on the bass, as if to announce, before anyone gets any funny ideas, “This ain’t your grandpa’s ‘Body and Soul.’”

Lest anyone think Vu is going to stomp all over the Great American Songbook, he also perverts a couple of pop songs (the Beatles’ “Something” and Jackson Browne’s “My Opening Farewell”), throws in original compositions (“Child-Like” and “I Shall Never Come Back”) and includes a five-minute metal-jazz group improvisation (“Leaps of Faith”). In other words, Vu—using an unconventional lineup of instruments, a quirky set list and a unique sound that draws from jazz, rock and electronic music—wants you to know he can do it all, and that he’s going to do it all his way.

Originally published in May 2011

1 Comment

  • Apr 30, 2011 at 10:03PM Joe Cooper

    So.... I don't get your writing. Not even sort of. You say a lot about what Cuong Vu does and you labor over your avant agare thesaurus, but you say little in the way of critique or review.

    It's like saying, The Stones... well they get together with instruments and have two song writers.

    Really? No kidding. Just say what's on your mind. It's a jazz magazine. Not a poetry zine.

    There.... I just reviewed your review.

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