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Kindred Spirits Cuong Vu And Pat Metheny Come Together In A New Jazz Album

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Trumpet player Cuong Vu's trio has been together for more than a decade, and they sometimes invite guests to play or record with them as a quartet. For their new album, they brought in Vu's one-time employer, guitarist Pat Metheny. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says they cover a lot of territory.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU AND PAT METHENY SONG, "NOT CRAZY JUST GIDDY UPPING")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: When trumpeter Cuong Vu was growing up in Seattle, his first musical inspiration was Pat Metheny. Later, the guitarist drafted Vu into his band for a while, recognizing a kindred spirit. Metheny is a longtime fan of Vu's rubbery chameleon of a trio, so a guest visit was a no-brainer, though it took ages to arrange. Like any good hosts the trio plan activities to keep a guest busy, but also go about their business, leaving him free to join in.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU AND PAT METHENY SONG, "TINY LITTLE PIECES")

WHITEHEAD: The album "Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny" lets you hear why the headliners get along. The guitarist's approach to sound and melody and streaking long tones spoke to the trumpeter from the first. In lyrical mode, they'll both craft shapely phrases - using weird notes, too - and they'll make a few notes dance various steps across the beat. Cuong Vu gets a lovely tone on trumpet - bright and sometimes raspy, but not shouty (ph). Drummer Ted Poor does his own dances around the frame.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU AND PAT METHENY SONG, "SEEDS OF DOUBT")

WHITEHEAD: Cuong Vu, like Pat Metheny, may use electronics to shadow his line. So they share a textural and sonic sensibility, too. They can keep the adornments light or blast the garage door off. Vu's trio is a perfect setting for the idiosyncratic Stomu Takeishi on fretless bass guitar. It brings out the arena-rocking Jack Bruce in him.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU AND PAT METHENY SONG, "ACID KISS")

WHITEHEAD: It wouldn't be fair to call this music retro fusion - old-school electric jazz wasn't really like this. But I do commend Metheny's loyalty to '80s guitar synthesizer sounds. He always made that high, thin voice wail.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU AND PAT METHENY SONG, "ACID KISS")

WHITEHEAD: With improvisers who can play noisy or nice and loose jamming that lets everyone find different ways in and out of varied material, the music on "Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny" veers from the raucous to the sweet. But the center holds. The extremes balance out and enrich each other. The rough and smooth give each other context.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUONG VU AND PAT METHENY SONG, "LET'S GET BACK")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and Tone Audio, and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Cuong Vu's Trio Meets Pat Metheny."

Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we talk about the new film "Pop Star," a comedy about a hip-hop group whose front man, played by Andy Samberg, goes solo. My guests will be Samberg and the film's directors, co-writers and co-stars Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer. They all did comic hip-hop videos for "Saturday Night Live." I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. John Sheehan directed today's show. I'm Terry Gross. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.