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Indigo Mist: That the Days Go By and Never Come Again

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Indigo Mist is the partnership of Cuong Vu, the trumpeter who came up in the Pat Metheny Group and has forged an identity with an ethereal rock-leaning sound, and Richard Karpen, a classically trained pianist and computer-music academic. The two met at the University of Washington, where both teach. Their electro-acoustic project nominally pays tribute to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, but that homage is indiscernible except in a few spots where snatches of familiar melody surface-a few notes from “Mood Indigo,” a snippet of “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.”

The record gets rolling-and “rolling” is the right word-with “L’Heure Bleue,” a five-minute drum solo in which Ted Poor conjures a storm that rumbles and quakes, augmented by looped passages created by iPad performers. That segues to “Indigo Mist,” whereupon we begin to hear from Vu, breathing and crackling, anti-melodically, through his electronically enhanced trumpet until it resembles an emergency siren; Karpen, who pounds the lower third like an angry Cecil Taylor; and bassist Luke Berman, who plucks minimally but with great force. Indeed, throughout the album, piano and bass are as much percussive instruments as the drum kit.

On it goes, with few clear demarcations between tunes but rare reminders that Vu and Karpen are honoring Ellington and Strayhorn-song titles such as “Billy” and “Duke,” and a gorgeous, atmospheric treatment of “In a Sentimental Mood” that is the closest the album gets to a true cover. They tackle “Lush Life,” one of the most challenging compositions in all of jazz,

but strip it down to 1:45, dispensing with most of the melody and removing the daunting, awkward chord changes. Dark, brooding and occasionally disturbing, That the Days Go By and Never Come Again is a more difficult listen than Vu’s previous work, but it is no less rewarding.

Originally Published