Cuong Vu 4-TET : Ballet (The Music Of Michael Gibbs)
On the heels of his acclaimed 2016 recording, Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny (Nonesuch Records), and his 2014 collaboration with electro-acoustic pianist-composer and Director of the School of Music at the University of Washington Richard Karpen on their Ellington-Strayhorn tribute That The Days Go By And Never Come Again (RareNoiseRecords), trumpeter-composer Cuong Vu joins forces with guest guitarist Bill Frisell on Ballet, a tribute to renowned composer-arranger Michael Gibbs.
With regular Vu 4Tet bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor, the four exchange ideas in the moment in a collective fashion on the expansive opening track, “Ballet,” which gradually morphs into a kind of quirky, dissonant blues waltz featuring brilliant solos from Vu and Frisell. The ethereal ballad “Feelings and Things” showcases Frisell’s more sensitive and spacious side while Vu turns in a remarkably lyrical solo here. “Blue Comedy,” a tune recorded by the Gary Burton Quartet (with Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow and Bob Moses) on 1968’s In Concert, kicks off with a drum salvo from Poor before Frisell and Vu join together on some tight unisons through the intricate head. As the piece progresses, it picks up a kind of shuffle-swing momentum which Frisell solos over with his signature fractured phrasing and surprising detours. Vu and Poor engage in some spirited exchanges near the end of this jaunty number. The most dramatic piece on the album, “And on the Third Day,” which originally appeared on Gibbs’ 1970 self-titled debut album, evolves gradually from a peaceful opening drone to a turbulent crescendo featuring powerful. soaring solos from both Vu and Frisell, the latter power chording with impunity and kicking on his fuzz box and backwards pedal for maximum effect.
“This recording came about as Bill’s wish to bring Mike Gibbs out to the University of Washington to do some of his arrangements of Bill’s music for orchestra,” says Vu. “Mike is indeed an iconic hero to Bill and it all came about from Bill’s desire to bring him to the UW. I asked the boss, Director of the School of Music, Richard Karpen, and he gave us the green light because he wanted to honor Bill. We did two nights with the first night being the orchestra night and the second being the big band night (both student ensembles). The quartet of Bill, Ted Poor, Luke Bergman and myself was a featured part of those (both the orchestra and the big band) performances. In addition to that, the quartet (sans orchestra/big band), played Mike’s music as the second set each night. This recording is from the second night.”
Regarding this exhilarating Vu 4Tet project, Vu says,
“This was a very collective/equal opportunity effort, so we just played and dealt with the cards collectively as they were dealt. I think it just comes down to the collection of players and our individual aesthetics coming together and trying to find a common goal/language.”
They succeed in triumphant fashion on Ballet, the second collaboration between Cuong Vu and Bill Frisell (their first was Vu’s 2005 ArtistShare album Mostly Residual).
Cuong Vu - trumpet
Bill Frisell - electric guitar
Luke Bergman - bass
Ted Poor - drums
2. Feelings And Things
3. Blue Comedy
4. And On The Third Day
5. Sweet Rain
Cat. No. : RNR079 / RNR079LP
Ballet (The Music Of Michael Gibbs) will be released on April 28th 2017 as 4-Panel CD Digipack, Single Vinyl and multiple download formats.
Indigo Mist (Cuong Vu Trio w. Richard Karpen)
Trumpeter-composer Cuong Vu has established himself as a distinctive voice on the new music/improvising scene for his adventurous work over the past 20 years with the likes of guitarist Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny and Laurie Anderson as well as his body of works as leader.
Electro-acoustic composer and pianist Richard Karpen has earned accolades for his work in the classical field as well as for being a cutting edge sonic experimenter of the highest order. Joined by their faculty colleagues at the University of Washington, innovative bassist Luke Bergman and Vu’s longstanding bandmate, drummer Ted Poor, these two kindred spirits push the envelope in a myriad of provocative ways on That The Days Go By And Never Come Again, an extended suite that pays tribute to the indelible composing team of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in a most uncompromising fashion.
The unlikely duo of New York-based improviser-bandleader Vu and Seattle academician Karpen crystallized when they met at the University of Washington. As Vu explains,
“One of the things that I did when I became a new faculty here was to research my colleagues, mainly just to get to know about the various interests of the School of Music faculty and get a feel for how I would move about within that musical community. Once I started reading about Richard, I was immediately interested because his work was on the forefront of electro-acoustic music as well as being a composer from the Western Classical Art Music tradition. Much of classical music had such an impact on how I interfaced with music while I was doing my bachelors of music that I've always been interested in working with a serious composer at some point. Then when I heard his music I was completely blown away and knew that I had to work with him, if not to just make music together somehow, then to at least learn from him.”
“It is very unusual for a ‘classically’ trained composer like me, with my particular background and continued interest in experimental music and several decades of very deep involvement in the development of computer music both as a composer and as a programmer, to be head of such a School of Music. And it seems to me to be just as unusual for someone coming from a jazz background like Cuong, who is deeply involved in breaking through artificial boundaries through many kinds of experimentation, would be on the a faculty of such a school. The chance that both of us would be at the same place at the same time, and with one of us heading this school, seems to be one chance in millions! We are both people who know good luck when we see it. Our meeting is just great luck and we have taken full advantage of it!”
After getting to know each other, the idea of collaborating on a project soon emerged.
“It became apparent that Richard was a fan of jazz and was into improvisation,” Vu recalls. “I had Ted Poor coming to the UW as a guest artist and decided to see how that would go if we played trio with Richard on piano. And from that beginning it's been an amazing confluence of musical approaches, traditions and concepts that work so well together. Outside of the musical areas that we overlap and that are perfectly congruent, the best parts of this musical mix are the disparate musical aesthetics, intent and varied points of reference and traditions that make for extremely challenging waters to navigate, but in such an exciting, educational and rewarding way.”
Cuong Vu - trumpet
Richard Karpen - piano
Luke Bergman - bass
Ted Poor - drums
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