Jun 3, 2017
Ever since I learned of the amazing breath of his talents with his stint in the Pat Metheny Group, I’ve been a fan of Cuong Vu. A trumpet player with a decidedly avant-garde style, Cuong is able to use his talents in any number of ways. Whether he is leading one of his groups, or serving as sideman for Metheny, Dave Douglas, and Myra Melford; or guesting on a David Bowie session, his presence seems to raise the game of all who are playing with him.
Born in Saigon, Cuong Vu immigrated to Seattle with his family in 1975.He went east for college, and after completing studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, he moved to New York in 1994 and began his career. As a leader, Cuong has released eight recordings, many making critics’ lists of the 10 best recordings of their respective years. In 2002 and 2006, Cuong was a recipient of the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album (Speaking of Now and This Way Up) as a member of the Pat Metheny Group. He currently chairs the Department of Jazz Studies at the University of Washington, where Cuong was awarded the University of Washington’s prestigious Distinguished Teacher Award and is a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow.
Cuong’s latest project is a return collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell. In 2005 they worked together on Mostly Residual, and continued a friendly relationship. When Frisell wanted to present a musical tribute to his mentor, composer-arranger Michael Gibbs, Cuong invited him to work on the project and perform at the University of Washington. The resulting CD, Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs) adds the great guitarist to Cuong’s core band for some shifting, moody often ethereal music. The 4tet – Frisell, Cuong, Luke Bergman (bass) and Ted Poor (drums) – tackle a sampling of Gibbs’ oeuvre (most enjoyably, “Blue Comedy”, made famous by Gary Burton) but always make them distinctively their own with their arrangements and subtle interplay.
Podcast 574 is my conversation with Cuong, as we discuss Ballet, his continuing association with Pat Metheny, and the state of students these days (his answers may surprise you!). Musical selections include tunes from Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs) and Cjuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny.