Get this crazy baby off my head!


Cuong Vu

Cuong Vu - Pure - 2000 - Knitting Factory Records

This jazz trio album, lead by trumpeter Vu, uses virtuosity, imagination and live electronic manipulations to make a thunderous and wonderful little album of what might be called "free jazz." © Keving O'Toole, wwuh.org

An excellent jazztronica album from the free jazz trumpeter Cuong Vu. Experimental, original, and accessible. You will really get into the great rhythms here. Really innovative basswork from Stomu Takeishi make this an album well worth listening to. Listen to Cuong Vu's "It's Mostly Residual" album. Give this music a chance. Don't be put off by the terms "avant garde" or "free jazz". Albums like these are full of musical merit, and need to be listened to carefully. They will pay dividends to the genuine modern jazz music lovers, or any music lover.


1 Faith
2 Vina, All Grown Up
3 Pitter-patter
4 Child-like
5 I Shall Never Come Back
6 Pure

All tracks composed by Cuong Vu, except "Pure" by John Hollenbeck, Stomu Takeishi, Cuong Vu


Stomu Takeishi - bass instrument
Cuong Vu - trumpet
John Hollenbeck - drums


Trumpeter Cuong Vu, with the release of his third leader session, has to be counted as one of the major jazz instrumentalists working in the spirit of the best fusion. On Come Play With Me, Vu's raw, breathy tone is shrouded in refracting, misty clouds of echo, delay and feedback, all of which serve to intensify the instrument's essential brassy qualities. The result is something both hard-boiled and dream-like. © Joe Milazzo, onefinalnote.com

It’s pure art. Cuong Vu has dug so deep into himself that the ineluctable ghost of Miles Davis just isn’t an issue, even in an electronically oriented arena like Pure’s, where you’d think that, between 1968 and 1975, Miles did everything that could be done. Drummer John Hollenbeck slugs the toms a lot, plays sparely and with a wide range of volume, uses subtle repetition in a way that you wouldn’t have called a groove till you found yourself stomping your foot on the floor. Bassist Stomu Takeishi, who plucks so busily way up the neck when he’s with Erik Friedlander, completely reinvents himself with Vu, squeezing his mud way down between the beats; mutant loops of his riffs are also used here and there as thematic material. Vu himself is determined to play nothing that’s meaningless. He drones essential planes of sustain, sketches slow minisongs of improvisation one after the other, finds brand-new tonal regions of his horn, sometimes sounding like he’s stuffed his cheeks with popcorn just for the effect it’ll produce. And whoever oversaw the electronic touches (Vu? co-producer Laurent Brondel?) cut them in with diamond precision, using them as accents rather than as ends in themselves. All are terrific. But at least once, take the full 18 minutes and pay strict attention to “I Shall Never Come Back.” It starts with sparse echoes in an empty room, follows with some truly scary monster-bass effects, cuts loose the drums for an episode of soulless brutality, then ushers in a trumpet passage that reveals everything about anguish and despair in flat, naked beauty before introducing a beat and an echoing finale that can’t represent anything but a man staggering self-pitilessly toward his death. It will shake you. © Greg Burk, LA Weekly

With Pure, Cuong Vu seems to have created the jazz version of a rock music power trio. Just imagine his trumpet as the guitar hero-style lead instrument on this session, meshed with Stomu Takeishi's very obviously electric bass and John Hollenbeck's inventive drumming. That done you can easily think of the three as a very sophisticated version of Rush, Triumph or Z.Z. Top. More seriously, the reason this CD is so impressive is despite -- or perhaps because of -- their power, the trio members are versatile enough to adapt many different musical forms to their own ends. Take the 17 and 1/2 minute "I Shall Never Come Back," for example. It gradually evolves from a spacey, electronics-tinged trumpet tone exploration to an out-and-out rocker, complete with auditorium shaking drumbeats and Brontosaurus tooth chomping bass rhythm. © Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly

Cuong Vu and his associates are creating a world of their own, presenting very long pieces based on the threesome of drums, bass, and trumpet. And if their jazz is of the experimental kind, it remains -- but for the rare noisy digressions -- very melodic. One will not find a classic type of jazz drumming here, since the drums are used as an instrument capable of making tunes. Stomu Takeishi plays the bass in a post-rockish style. Vu does not blow his trumpet like a crazy jazzman; well, he occasionally does, and at those times, it feels good. On the contrary, Vu takes his time for each note, letting it sound in a way that brings out all the trumpet's sonorousness. Sometimes, listeners may even wonder whether it is a trumpet or not, particularly when it gives the impression of a guitar solo. Most of the compositions follow the pattern of being calm at the beginning, creating tension, reaching a climax, and returning to normal. The pieces range from eight to 18 minutes in length and -- despite the tensions in them -- after hearing Pure, one thinks of the album's cooler aspects. © Romain Guillou, All Music Guide


Trumpeter Cuong Vu has gained increasing recognition as a great young talent through his live appearances and session work with some of today's top avant-garde jazz musicians, his membership in the Pat Metheny Group, and his leadership of a jazztronica trio also featuring bassist Stomu Takeishi along with some of the most exciting drummers on the cutting-edge jazz scene. Born into a musical family in Vietnam (his mother was a Vietnamese pop singer and his father was a multi-instrumentalist), Vu and his mother moved to the U.S. and settled in Seattle, WA, when he was six years old. He became enamored with the saxophone, one of his father's instruments, and finally asked his mother for a trumpet when he was 11. Vu was later awarded a scholarship at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied under Joe Maneri, who had a big influence on Vu. While studying in Boston, he was also positively affected by local improvised music act the Fringe. After graduating with a B.A. in jazz studies, Vu moved to New York and settled into the city's so-called downtown scene during the 1990s, performing with the likes of Dave Douglas, Bobby Previte, Chris Speed, Andy Laster, Jamie Saft, and Gerry Hemingway. Vu was also a member of drummer George Schuller's Orange Then Blue big band and Jeff Song's Lowbrow. In addition to these projects, Vu led his own groups, including Scratcher and Vu-Tet. March 2000 brought the release of his album Bound (featuring percussionist Jim Black, keyboardist Saft, and bassist Takeishi) on the Brooklyn-based OmniTone label. The same fall, Pure was released on the Knitting Factory label; the CD featured the trio of Vu, Takeishi, and drummer John Hollenbeck. A year later, the trio released a second Knitting Factory CD, Come Play with Me. One might have expected the subsequent demise of the Knitting Factory label to diminish Vu's profile somewhat, but instead the trumpeter found himself performing and recording for his largest audience yet after being tapped by jazz star Pat Metheny to join the guitarist's band. Vu toured extensively with the Pat Metheny Group and appeared on Metheny's CDs Speaking of Now (a 2002 Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Jazz Album) and Way Up (2005). During the early 2000s Vu also joined pianist Myra Melford's quintet The Tent. In 2005 Vu released It's Mostly Residual, his fourth CD as a leader, on the Japanese Intoxicate label. The CD again featured Vu and Takeishi, this time with a new drummer, Ted Poor, who propelled the band forward in the spirit of Vu's previous exemplary percussionists Black and Hollenbeck. And none other than Bill Frisell is featured as a guest star throughout the CD, proving that Pat Metheny is not the only high-profile jazz guitarist who finds musical common ground with one of the most innovative trumpeters on the modern creative jazz scene. [It's Mostly Residual can be purchased directly through Cuong Vu's website at www.cuongvu.com.] © Joslyn Layne & Dave Lynch, All Music Guide