OFN Home

Cuong Vu : CACP 10 Questions

©Photo by Valerie Trucchia

Cuong Vu is widely recognized as a leader of a new generation of innovative musicians. A truly unique musical voice, Vu has lent his trumpet playing talents to a wide range of artists including Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Dave Douglas, Cibo Matto, Mitchell Froom, and Chris Speed, as well as his continuing work with the Pat Metheny Group. Since moving to New York in 1994, Vu has been active leading various groups, most notably his trio with Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Ted Poor (drums).  His current release It’s Mostly Residual on the ArtistShare label features Bill Frisell; in anticipation of his trio touring in support of this release, CACP’s Nick Utrie asked Vu to respond to the 10 Questions.

CACP 10 Questions developed by Mark Patel of the Center for Artistic Collaboration and Performance.

1) What have you been listening to lately?

Sigur Ros—New Record (they don’t have titles)

Live footage of my band (have to weed through 16 gigs to find some good cuts).

Otherwise, haven’t had time to listen to music other than a quick glance at what’s going on on MTV while I’m on tour.

2) What is your most memorable live performance?

My first major festival gig as a leader with my quintet at Tampere Jazz Festival in Finland.  I didn’t even have my own record as a leader out yet. But the music director heard us in a café in NY and decided to bring us to Finland and feature us.  We got a really good spot in the festival in the main hall and there were thousands of people who really dug our set.  I was a nervous wreck.

3) What is your most memorable concert-going experience?

Miles Davis at Bumbershoot in Seattle.  It was my first “jazz” concert.  I had a fifth row and center seat.  Seeing Miles up there was a trip.  Daryl Jones and Kenny Garrett’s playing really took my breath away.

4) Who is the one musician with which you would most like to play?

Of the people that I haven’t played with?  That would be Bjork.

5) Who is your biggest non-musical influence?

My mother.

6) What is your first musical memory?

Sitting next to the bass drum (I must have been four or five years old) at my dad’s rehearsal (he played guitar).  The thump of the bass drum made my eyes blink with every hit and the impact of the sound wave hit me in my stomach, lungs, and heart.  It was amazing.

7) When did you know that you wanted to be an improvising musician?

When I first tried to improvise in my Jr. High jazz band and it actually sounded better than I thought I could sound.  It was an extremely exciting feeling to make something up and it sounded right... it sounded like legit music, which was amazing to me.

8) What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

To make the best music that I can and come up with something that is recognized as uniquely my own while being able to move people with it.

9) If music was banned tomorrow, what would you do?

Go live a simple life in the country.  Work with my hands (carpentry or something like that).  Build my own house and just enjoy life away from the capitalistic driven lifestyle that seems to have sucked the soul from a huge part of society as a whole.

10) Can music save people, and if so, how?

Sometimes, when I’m in that space where I can get out of the micro view of my own existence and see the big picture of all of the badness that’s going on out there, I wonder if music and art in general is even significant.

I would like to think that music has the power to move people enough to cause them to open up and see a different perspective.  Hopefully that difference in perspective could then cause a domino effect to occur within their thinking patterns where they would open up their eyes and step out of their own micro view of their lives and see other things in a different way. Hopefully then, they would more often make decisions that would lean towards helping the collective rather than “protecting their own individual interests”, which often is accompanied with a passive yet conscious decision to look the other way from the consequences of their actions (I’m not pointing fingers, since I am guilty too). 

Art, whether it’s via the medium of music, film, books, photos... whatever, has had that kind of power over me so I guess that it can help make things a little better if not indirectly save people.