The Seattle-based trumpeter Cuong Vu gives his forceful blend of modernism and broody melancholia extra bite by adding the flutters and growls of contemporary jazz. His previous album, last year’s Ballet, twinned his lean lines and brassy sound with the space-conscious resonance of Bill Frisell’s guitar on a live-recorded tribute to the composer Michael Gibbs. The performance merged mainstream elegance with avant-garde fire, and, with the trumpeter’s regular rhythm section in support, flowed with the ease of a well-travelled band.
This studio-recorded album, featuring compositions by each member of the band, turns that one-off project into something more. Here blues-tinted melodies lean backwards on the beat, trumpet flourishes spiral over single resonant strums and spiky lines sit on warped Americana. For all the contrasts in texture and tone, not a note sounds out of place.
The album opens with the bittersweet “All That’s Left of Me is You” and the gritty “Alive”. The first plays out on a swish of brushes, the second features growling trumpet over mid-tempo rock and both were written by drummer Ted Poor — later, his floaty ballad “Lately” is an album highlight.
Frisell’s slightly surreal waltz “Look, Listen” comes next, an affecting mix of pure trumpet melodies and deconstructed support, and then bassist Luke Bergman’s “Must Concentrate” begins with the gentle strums of a bossa nova, gradually builds into pounding rock and returns from whence it came.
Leader Cuong Vu’s compositions take a left-field track. “Round and Round” opens with unaccompanied trumpet and guitar precisely playing an out-of-tempo theme — the piece develops as four-way improv when the band joins in. In contrast, the angular “March of the Owl and the Bat” is developed as a slow burn that peaks with smoky trumpet growls and slashes of guitar.
The set ends with two elegiac pieces from Frisell, the first, “Long Ago”, an epic waltz, the second, “Far From Here”, a blues-tinged lament, both played with acres of space.
‘Change in the Air’ is released by RareNoise
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