Monday, May 08, 2017

Cuong Vu 4tet - Ballet (RareNoise, 2017)

After a successful collaboration with Pat Metheny last year, trumpeter Cuong Vu meets up with another notable guitarist, Bill Frisell, in a tribute to the compositions of composer and arranger Michael Gibbs. They are joined on this live album by Luke Bergman on bass and Ted Poor on drums and the album begins with "Ballet," which shows the leader playing along with spare guitar and brushed percussion in a quiet and mysterious fashion. They move through space carefully, with Frisell taking a very jazzy guitar solo supported by thick bass and swirling and slashing brushes. Vu's brass returns and weaves through the thicket, developing a potent current with a solid full band improvisation punctuated by stabs of guitar and rattling bass and drums. "Feelings and Things" sees the band taking a lush ballad approach, with bright trumpet providing rays of light, building in a majestic fashion with subtle brushes in accompaniment. Light and nimble percussion sets the stage for "Blue Comedy" with the band joining together to state the jaunty melody. There's a swinging section for guitar, bass and drums which is played with a cunning wit. Punchy trumpet pokes through with drums laying out briefly and develops a very impressive solo feature with the rhythm team in tight support. Guitar, growling trumpet and light percussion are hallmarks of "And on the Third Day" which is spacious with a hint of the unknown keeping the music fresh and interesting. The trumpet slowly rises to shine as the volume of the music increases which creates a muscular collective improvisation, especially when Frisell slips the leash and bursts out with beams of laser sharp electric guitar which is full of energy. The quartet comes together for a strong improvisation and then downshifts to a controlled landing. The album concludes with "Sweet Rain" with brushes and patient guitar and bass playing in a delicate manner with graceful horn playing probing and casting glances and they finish the album playing this gentle ballad in a restrained and dignified manner. This album worked quite well, and the Gibbs compositions were the perfect food for this band to feed on. The band plays the music in a thoughtful manner that allows each of them to shine while also supporting one another. Ballet -

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