Violinist and composer Jason Kao Hwang has an unusual ability to create compositions that seem as if they're falling together by happenstance. Through the '90s he led the Far East Side Band, with Sang-Won Park, Joseph Daley and Satoshi Takeishi, working out a hybrid of Downtown improv and traditional Asian musics. The band never came off as a fusion, but rather a leisurely, happy coincidence: a byproduct of living in a crowded, international city.
That group disbanded in 2004 and with this release Hwang introduces a new quartet, Edge, with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Andrew Drury. Over the course of four tracks (ranging from eight to twelve minutes), the group follows Hwang's almost inverted style of composing for improvisers: they begin with slow, disparate parts and then seem to fall into tight composition, turning the theme/solo model on its head. But where the Far East Side Band had a decidedly Asiatic feel, here Hwang is working in a jazzier mode. The compositions are strong and the band, when they need to be, is tight. Drury makes smooth but drastic shifts to complement the shifting, cinematic pieces, Filiano is solid, Bynum burns and Hwang is as inventive as ever.
The disc blends to a whole, which is nice, but if this band lasts anywhere close to the fourteen years of Hwang's previous group, it's easy to see where its sound might grow broader.
Personnel: Jason Kao Hwang: composer, violin; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Andrew Drury: percussion; Ken