The Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny and The Unity Sessions Show Purpose & Spontaneity (ALBUM REVIEW)


The Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny and The Unity Sessions work equally well as companion pieces and studies on contrast. The former, which finds the Grammy-winning guitarist composer sitting in on studio sessions with a former bandmate as the latter leads his own group, is an exercise in simplicity when  compared to the intricate workings of the band Metheny formed in 2012 and worked with for approximately a three year period.

Skillfully blurring the  the ever so fine line between complex composition and intricate improvisation during their first recording,Pat Metheny’s Unity Band  expanded on the followup Kin to include Giulio Carmassi, the addition of whose keyboards, vocals and trumpet thus rendered the sound much more similar to the Pat Metheny Group of  recent years. The Unity Sessions, suggests that’s perhaps the point as the expansion allowed Metheny to include a horn in the lineup (which he had not done since 80/81) and simultaneously compose with all the complexity he prefers. This double-CD set contains all the material previously released on DVD in 2015, sequenced in a different running order, which, except perhaps for those music lovers who really dote on the drama of watching a band play, will offer its own set of revelations via audio alone. In fact, the individual connections within the band dynamic become more readily apparent without visual distraction(s), while the scope of the material, including an acoustic undercurrent introduced on “Adagia,” stands out in greater relief,with the conclusion of jagged electric guitar on “Go Get It.”


One of the most prolific musicians in jazz, Pat Metheny’s engagement in his projects is never less than wholehearted and his participation in the Cuong Vu Trio album is no exception. The Missouri born musician  not only co-produced, but commandeered his regular engineer Pete Karam to oversee the technical aspect of the recording. Thus, the soft intonations of Vu’s trumpet on “Acid Kiss” precede the rumble of Ted Poor’s drums and a collective acceleration that lifts the trio into intense interaction with Metheny on “Not Crazy (Just Giddyupping) for Vina.” Whether The Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny would sound much less arresting without the iconic guitarist/composer is a moot point: as with The Unity Sessions, these musicians conjure up a deep and often heady atmosphere through the spontaneity of their interactions as much as the compositions themselves.

In a similar route to immersion in this music, the packaging of both albums replicates that of traditional vinyl LP’s. Open-fold digi-paks contain the discs as well as multi-page booklets, while the graphics inside and out mirror the continuity of the music inside.

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