by Jeff Becker
Watching the development of an artist over the years is probably one of the most gratifying aspects of being a jazz reviewer. Trumpeter Cuong Vu started making a name for himself years ago, but it is only recently those seeds have begun to blossom.
Formerly a former scholarship student at the New England Conservatory of Music where he graduated with a BM in jazz studies where he distinguishing himself in performance and made the jazz musician’s rite of passage by moving to New York in the mid-1990s and instead of getting lost in a whirl of schlepping for gigs in the time-honored fashion, he instead recorded a large catalog of recordings as a leader, mostly in an modern leaning to at times avant-garde style that immediately connected with audiences.
The turning point moment was when Saigon-born Vietnamese American trumpeter became a member of Pat Metheny’s jazz-fusion super group the Pat Metheny Group, and appeared on Speaking of Now. The PMG was (now disbanded) an outfit who could garner big audiences in many countries around the world and who played challenging post-bop rock-tinged pieced with ease and tenacity.
Vu has a new record out this spring, that features his trio “meeting” Metheny entitled Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny, and it’s a record filled with mindfulness and adventure of exploration, there’s no posturing or peacocking in this offering, it features open structures, plenty of improvising and a candor in the playing that is simply refreshing. Certainly, worth adding to your collection and definitely hours of enjoyment from a top-notch ensemble, highly recommended.