Warming Up

Warming Up

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player Winner

First things first – sorry for the absence of posts. I was camping all weekend and I’m also painting my living room and dining room. Not much free time so this will be a light week. I have some larger, more in-depth posts in the works including a first for Outside Pants: a musician interview. Now, back to today’s post…

Thanks to all who listened to last Thursday’s track and to those who ventured a guess. Nobody guessed who this trumpet player is so…the winner of the twenty-first edition of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is…….no one!

And the correct answer is….Cuong Vu. And this tune is the title track off of Vu’s latest record “Leaps of Faith.” Now when I posted this track I knew that some people were going to dig it and others were going to find it a little hard on the ears. From the responses that I received, that turned out to be pretty much right on. Since Vu came out with his 2000 debut album as a leader, “Bound” (Omnitone), he’s been documenting an ever-developing sound, one that involves a whole lot of texture. He uses lots of delay and reverb and sometimes some distortion. But really it’s his ability to create his own natural effects that makes him unique. He plays with a dry, flat sound with no vibrato when he uses a “straight” sound; and he has a huge arsenal of splatty sounds, gurgles, choke-tunes, and split buzzes (something I’d really love to learn how to do – ever heard Peter Evans do this? Ridiculous!). Vu uses these sounds to develop and highlight his melodic themes, many of which evolve into grand, almost epic statements. He’s not playing bebop – or jazz even. Chord changes are not the focus. His music has a pop sensibility but it’s steeped in some avant-garde music too. But really it’s just sound and noise. Melody and rhythm are important, but for me, Vu’s sound and approach to the trumpet is what makes him unique.

I have four of Vu’s records and honestly, I don’t like everything on all of them. There’s something in his rhythmic approach that leaves me a little flat even if it is very unique to him. Too stilted (is that really a word?). I do really like this new album though. “Leaps of Faith” has an interesting instrumentation. Trumpet, two electric basses (which often times are played like and sound like guitars), and drums. And he does some standards on this record – “All The Things You Are,” “Body and Soul,” “My Funny Valentine,” George Harrison’s “Something.” These standards are not the versions you are used to but I think that’s why I enjoy them so much. They are re-imaginations of the tunes. Almost unrecognizable sometimes. And the original tunes are all uniformly good too. But the thing that really struck me when I listened to this album is the influences I heard in Vu’s playing; influences I have never recognized before. The chromaticism of Miles Davis and Tomasz Stanko and the melodic nature of Bill Dixon’s playing. Never heard these guys in Vu’s playing before, but I think they are definitely there. And this is a good thing, I think. At least in my mind it is. So if you like your music a little adventurous, a little spacey but also a little chaotic, and if you like weird trumpet sounds, this might just be the record for you. It’s my favorite Vu album thus far. Check it out.

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