It may require a leap of faith to entertain Cuong Vu's overhaul of jazz standards, but it was no easy step for Vu either, after 15 years doing his own thing. Innovative, too, the use of two bassists, with Luke Bergman holding down the bottom end and freeing Stomu Takeishi up to roam wide sonic territory. It can't have been easy for Bergman to enter and radically rewire a long-standing trio, nor for Takeishi to assume a new role, but Vu's bold move has paid handsome dividends.
Faithful melodic interpretations of "Body and Soul," "All the Things You Are" and "My Funny Valentine" strike an impressive balance between harmonic form and improvisation, and Vu's playing is imbued with emotion. "Leaps of Faith" with its nod to John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" hits the accelerator, whereas Vu's "Child-like (For Vina)" smolders like a psychedelic "Voodoo Chile" before veering into storming quartet improvisation, driven by Ted Poor's blistering drumming.
An intimate, powerful reading of George Harrison's "Something" seduces like a slow blues, and again suggests Frisell's influence. The final 25 minutes, of Vu's revamped "I Shall Never Come Back" and Jackson Browne's "My Opening Farewell" match head-spinning intensity with inherent musicality and attest to the potent chemistry at the core of this unique quartet.