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It's Mostly Residual by Cuong Vu

With It's Mostly Residual Cuong Vu, probably best recognizable in his capacity as the trumpet player in Pat Metheny's current group, has already released the sixth album of his young career. This album displays an outstanding confidence and a range of influences that extend well beyond the middle of the road; these traits both make for a stylish well executed album that is an enjoyable listen that holds up under repeated scrutiny.

This album features six tracks: all original compositions by Mr. Vu. These compositions tend to emphasize texture over improvised melody, but the group's collective dedication to these textures manages to avoid the listlessness that can come from deemphasizing the individual melodic voice. Part of the success of this album is that it also avoids falling into an emotional rut: there are lovely impressionistic compositions, but there are also more rhythmically driven compositions which manage to portray more jagged peaks while all carry a certain textural thread visible throughout the record. Noteworthy among these is the composition "Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse," which reminds this reviewer of the Herbie Hancock Composition "One Finger Snap."

The individual musicians on this album are all deserving of praise: Vu's trumpet playing isn't featured enough, but where it is especially on "Patchwork" and "Brittle, Like Twigs" it shines with modernity and style. Drummer Ted Poor makes contributions that show a strong appreciation for the collective goals of the ensemble, while also managing to also display significant individual verve. Bill Frisell, who is cropping up all over the place recently with little complaint from anyone, fits into the ensemble in a way that belies his status as a "guest": it's impossible to imagine this record without him. Stomu Takeishi is featured less than the rest of the band, but like the rest of the band he deserves to be commended for providing a unique voice while also perfectly matching the spirit of each composition.

The palette of this album includes a wide range of electronic and/or distorted sounds, some of which are attributable to Mr. Frisell or Mr. Vu's use of effects, while others have less discernible origins. Regardless of where they come from, these sounds are effectively used to expand the sonic range of the album without losing track of the focus of the compositions. There is a strong presence of fusion in the compositions as well as in the playing of all the players, but this is well homogenized with tendencies toward the avant garde and contemporary jazz styles creating an album that really spans several categories, without seeming at all contrived. This is album will probably most appeal to those with an interest in fusion, but dedicated listeners of any type of modern jazz will find something to appreciate here.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Cuong Vu
  • CD Title: It's Mostly Residual
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: ArtistShare
  • Rating: Four Stars
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