It's a bold endeavor to believe you can invoke freshness and vitality into thinly worn standards like "Body and Soul," "All the Things You Are" and "My Funny Valentine." Trumpeter Cuong Vu meets the challenge head-on with imaginative results on Leaps of Faith, a quartet outing with wide-open improvisatory exploration, melding consonant lyricism with chaotic tumult.
Vu, a Seattle-based musician who has worked with a host of renowned musical personalities, such as guitarist Pat Metheny, stands out as a voice of reason among the intentional chaotic buildup from drums and dual electric bass. His emphasis on tone and delivery of a clear-cut theme, whether that of a standard or one of his own, such as "Child-Like," creates stand-still moments and sets up majestic climaxes. The trumpeter's tranquil rendering of George Harrison's "Something" is a disc highlight.
Electric bassists Luke Bergman and Stomu Takeishi conspire to create a multitude of effects-driven sound clusters, at times embracing the expected role of bottom-end provider, and at times completely eschewing it, building up sonic tension with drummer Ted Poor. This unique pairing works exceptionally well on the title track, a playful experiment on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." As the two play off of each other, distinguishing each bass part from the left and right channels makes for interesting listening, although information regarding channel separation details isn't available.
Leaps of Faith is a musical paradox, conveying stillness and serenity through blatant expressions of noise. The results are brilliant.