SPEAK in Ballard. Color version of the inside photo from the July Earshot Jazz profile on the group featuring Aaron Otheim, Cuong Vu, Luke Bergman, Chris Icasiano, Andrew Swanson
From Earshot Profile: By Peter Walton
For many, introductions to the band Speak came with last April’s Andrew D’Angelo benefit concert at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Sheperd Center. Concluding a night of emotional performances from Wayne Horvitz, Bill Frisell, Cuong Vu, Robin Holcomb, and Eyvind Kang, the band, then billed as Cuong Vu’s University of Washington Student Ensemble, was one
of the evening’s great surprises. Speak’s sprawling and unpredictable performance featured complex , spirited improvisations, and a genuine reverence for D’Angelo. (And in many ways, it made perfect sense that a benefit for the saxophonist, a Seattle native and graduate of Roosevelt High School, would feature a young, closely knit, and enormously promising band of fellow Seattle natives.) The performance would later be remembered as a turning point for Speak, marking Vu’s arrival as a regular performing partner and peer. Yet it surely also marked the arrival of a new generation of committed, thoughtful, and immensely talented young improvisers on Seattle’s creative arts scene. More straight-ahead and swinging than you might hear them today, the band in its early stages lacked a clear musical focus. Under Vu’s mentorship, however, Speak began to develop a cohesive and unique identity. As Chris Icasiano explains, “Cuong brought with him his experience with his own trio and the Pat Metheny Group, both of which are bands with very distinct
spirit and commitment with which they attacked these musical approaches and problems that I presented.” struck by the sheer talent of his students (whom he now considers “on par with some of the most talented people that I’ve come across in my career”), as well as how quickly and thoroughly they absorbed and applied the ideas and theories which he introduced.”
Go to Earshot Jazz publication to continue reading.
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