Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cuong Vu and friends ...

Trumpeter Cuong Vu is a very demanded and active musician. He plays with Pat Metheny, he has his own quartet, and plays on the album of many other musicians (Myra Melford, Chris Speed). His last album, "Vu-Tet", already dates back from December 2007, but here we find him back on new albums by two young bands, adding more than just his trumpet-playing to shape their overall sound.

Speak (self-published, 2010) ***½

Speak is a young band from Seattle, Washington, with members coming from various musical backgrounds. Keyboardist Aaron Otheim has a classical background, bassist Luke Bergman and saxophonist Andrew Swanson hail from rock bands. Only drummer Chris Icasiano is a trained jazz drummer. The musicians are students of trumpeter Cuong Vu and he helped them shape the music on their first album, and joins on all tracks, and believe me, it is more than worth listening to.

 The music is composed from beginning to end, very much like the music of Jim Black or Chris Speed, two musicians well known to Cuong Vu and so his fit into this band is quite organic. They bring their rock-influenced modern jazz with lots of power and drive, leaving sufficient room for improvisation. This is genre-breaking and open-minded music. Clever and performed with lots of skills.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Mickey Finn with Cuong Vu - Gagarin!  (El Gallo Rojo Records, 2010) ***½

 Mickey Finn is actually the name of this Italian band (referring to the comic strip?), with Enrico Terragnoli on guitars, Giorgio Pacorig on Fender Rhodes and piano, Danilo Gallo on acoustic bass guitar, 12 string bass and double bass, Zeno di Rossi on drums. Carla Bozulich joins for vocals on one track. Again, the featured artist is Cuong Vu on trumpet and effects.

The nature of the music is totally different, though. Although equally entirely modern and genre-breaking, the approach is more light-footed, more open-textured, and with more variation, although that's not always a good thing: you get it all: lounge jazz ("The Lady Is A Trans"), wild pumping rock jazz with screaming trumpet ("Serpente", "Land Mine"), avant-garde excursions ("Again, again"), some sweet musings ("I Met Einstein In A Dream", "Amy"), and even a song ("I Can't Feel It Anymore", style Portishead), soundtrack ("Gian Maria Volonte", "Jean Gabin"). Each of these compositions is excellent, and somehow you wonder how they're related musically, if it were not by the all-persavive sensuality and emotional power.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Two bands that are promising, and to look out for. 

Watch Mickey Finn with Cuong Vu at Udinese Jazz Festival (skip the first minute!)



© stef

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It might not be appealing to everyone, but I love the way Vu combines contemporary and avantgarde/free both in his playing and compositions. And he carved his own little niche in music (jazz-ambient-rock?)in his own recordings. I'll be sure two check out those two albums.

joesh said...

Hi Stef

Just for your interest a Mickey Finn is a drink laced with something. Next time you watch an old gangster movie (Bogart par example) you'll probably notice how someone eventually gets slipped a 'mickey finn'.

Wiki has a nice fun article that explains more than you need to know :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Finn_(drugs)

Stef said...

Thanks Joe - getting more enlightened every day ...

stef

Zach Koeber said...

Speak sounds like an interesting album...definitely going to check it out!