Cuong Vu Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cuong Vu Trio 

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Until a few years ago Vietnam-born trumpeter Cuong Vu was one of the most exciting players in the New York scene: through the 90s and the early part of this decade he applied his peerless technique to a variety of hard-hitting projects that fearlessly wedded improvisation to electronics, including his own frenetic trio and Yeah No, a quartet led by reedist Chris Speed. But since 2001 the Pat Metheny Group has kept Vu busy both on the road and in the studio, and though I had high hopes that he'd shake up Metheny's music, the guitarist still puts me to sleep. There are no such problems on the recent It's Mostly Residual (ArtistShare), the first record Vu's released under his own name in four years. The group--which features electric bassist Stomu Takeishi, drummer Ted Poor, and guest guitarist Bill Frisell--couches alternately ethereal and almost hooky melodies in a maelstrom of rhythms, colors, and textures that updates Miles Davis's electric work. Poor generates a powerful whirlwind, and though he frequently brings the hammer down like a rock drummer he never plays the groove in an easy, direct way. Takeishi's thick, looping lines provide a dense counterpoint to Poor's playing, giving the music some heft while pushing Vu's tart yet liquid lines forward. Vu clearly knows what he wants out of his ensemble, and Frisell's textural gestures fit into the onslaught with puzzle-piece precision. The group is touring without Frisell. The Jeff Chan Trio opens. Wed 2/22, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12.

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