Antonis Kalamoutsos

Antonis Kalamoutsos
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CUONG VU - Cuong Vu 4-tet ‎: Change In The Air Fusion | review permalink

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1 Fusion 1 4.00

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CUONG VU Cuong Vu 4-tet ‎: Change In The Air

Album · 2018 · Fusion
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.... and then, there are these moments when the only thing you ask of music is to embrace and surround you like a huge, colourful cloud.

Born in Vietnam and based in Seattle, Cuong Vu has already accomplished some great achievements in the jazz genre, despite being still at his late 40s. The most important achievement though is that he has shaped his own personal voice, having explored with his trumpet a variety of different jazz paths, from “traditional” to fusion and from there to its most experimental aspects. So, his very breath has managed to form that huge, colourful cloud that shades everything tenderly, peacefully and with limitless expressive power. Let us not forget that the trumpet is an ideal case if you want to hear the Man behind the instrument. Well, Vu sounds like a great man and this is neither irrelevant nor insignificant.

Change in the air is Vu’s second release with 4-Tet where he coexists and co creates with three wonderful musicians, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor. This collaboration is fulfilled with terms of equal and collective creation, a strategic choice that makes the album take off. That is because Vu’ s trumpet may stand over the compositions, like a parental supervision, being also the music’s “battering ram” but that doesn’t mean his companions get lost in the background. On the contrary, they are equally under the spotlight next to him.

Frisell’s guitar feels like a multilingual instrument: it explores all kinds of harmonic moods and polysemous chords, it discreetly uses modern effects and decorates music with its unrivaled presence. On the other hand, the rhythm section of Bergman/Poor, being one of the wisest and more balanced I have ever encountered in a jazz album, spreads gigantically in space supporting, emphasising and sending light to any dark corners, always in the best possible expressiveness.

The above mentioned collective effort is mostly reflected on the fact that all four musicians contribute almost equally their compositions, with three tracks each and Bergman adding one. As a result, Poor and Bergman are equivalently pointed out as amazing composers. Poor instantly sets the bar to unreachable heights with the opening nostalgic noir of ''All that's left of me is you'' and the ravishing and personal favourite ''Alive'' that follows, a composition in which the band dares to enrich with an almost bluesy Americana aura. Bergman’s ''Must concentrate'' carries a completely different rhythmic, almost dancing character while progresses into one of the album’s most intense moments. The three compositions by Frisell reveal a distant relation with those of Poor, with a dominating sense of bittersweet and sometimes sexy melancholy, as well as an immense harmonic richness. As for Vu, he keeps for himself the album’s most experimental and dark moments ''Round and Round'' and ''Round and round (Back around)'', as well as ''March of the owl and the bat'' , probably the only genuine fusion track involved. While these compositions are not my cup of tea, i think they are extremely valuable for the album’s flow, painting it in darker tones for a while.

In total, Change in the air is not an album of intense soloing and technical gymnastics. It is more like a sentimental dive into the Challengers Deep of quality music enthusiasts and like a human structure raised by a broad musical mind. Free and unforced, all the notes never end but just keep on reaching beyond, as if they are to reach the most distant horizons. If it was a painting it would be an impressionistic one, with open forms, diffused light and blurry colours. The subject is rather open to the perception of the listener though. Through my own filters, this is ultimately a midnight album, of nights with undefined moods and purposes unknown.

Change in the air is a work of sheer beauty, unique as a fingerprint and kind as an innocent memory. Washed away from every arrogance and hypocrisy, Cuong Vu 4-Tet deliver a crystal album, a collective breath that rises above until it hangs over your head like a cloud, ideal for all those moments when you just ask of music to embrace and surround you, without offending anything within you.

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