Cuong Vu 4Tet - Change In The Air

Label: RareNoise, 2018

Personnel – Cuong Vu: trumpet; Bill Frisell: guitar; Luke Bergman: bass; Ted Poor: drums.


Cuong Vu nurtures the idea of group identity with another multifaceted quartet album featuring singular guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman, and drummer Ted Poor. Change In The Air is the followup to Ballet: The Music of Michael Gibbs and includes only original compositions brought by all the four members of the ensemble - Vu, Poor, and Frisell contribute three tunes each, and Bergman one.

Surprisingly, the album starts with a longing jazz ballad penned by the drummer, who employs brushes for a more delicate sound. But there are other balladic incursions like Frisell’s discreetly bluesy “Far From Here” and “Long Ago”, a slow folk number with a rustic touch that advances methodically with conspicuous snare drum activity. The guitarist’s writing style is unequivocal and his sound aesthetics is transported to this quartet.

Poor’s “Alive”, one of the record’s most exhilarating pieces, is a resolute epic that shifts and shines with Frisell’s full-bodied country-rock guitar emboldened by the dependable bass-drums flux, while the adventurous Vu unleashes spontaneous phrases in tones of blue, where every note is played with passion and grit.

Bergman’s sole composition “Must Concentrate”, offers engrossing chord changes over an initially static rhythm. However, the group doesn’t linger in that particular orientation for too long. They work dynamics with gusto, weave engaging textures (Bergman plays additional guitars), and the song easily gravitates toward the alternative pop/rock style, differing from the less impetuous temper that had been created with the previous waltzing tune: Frisell’s contemplative yet alert “Look, Listen”.

Round and Round” has the melodic instruments articulating polished phrases, whether in unison whether echoed in tandem. There are two versions of this examination, but Vu’s finest compositional effort is “March of the Bat and the Owl”, a jolt of swamp-funk and rock with staccato accents, distorted guitar, shifting tempos and sumptuous rhythms. Evidently, you’ll find the band following the routines of stretching and release with awe-inspiring virtuosity.

Cuong Vu and his reliable associates play melancholic melodies and embrace slow tempos with the same precision and creativity as when they improvise on the razor’s edge. This is a highly enjoyable disc; one that thrives through effective teamwork and forthright personal statements.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Alive ► 07 - March of the Bat and the Owl ► 10 – Far From Here