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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Ayman Fanous: Zilzal

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The music forged by Egyptian guitarist/bouzouki player Ayman Fanous and violinist/violist Jason Kao Hwang is alternately thoughtful, prickly, exasperating, mournful, and enchanting. It speaks to mysteries and histories, capturing and refracting the shared language, cross-cultural references, and mystic vibes that these two men have been cultivating and exploring together for fifteen years. “Zilzal" is the Arabic word for “earthquake," but the music on Zilzal doesn't always rumble and rupture the ground. Peaceful prayers ("Nilometer At Roda") can lead to moments of uncertainty ("DNA: Untranslated" and “DNA: Messenger, The Message"), and storms sometimes part at the last second ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Ayman Fanous: Zilzal

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The duo release--Zilzal--further defines the evolution of two master musician/composers pursing the most imaginative alternatives to the status quo. In recent years, the inventive violinist/violist Jason Kao Hwang has been fully invested in exploring diverse compositional territories. His Burning Bridge octet is now firmly entrenched as a bellwether of genre-defying modern music with a distinct jazz accent. He has travelled the worlds of opera, classical and free jazz with equal passion, crossing traditional barriers and pushing against customary musical confines. Egyptian-born Ayman Fanous has honed distinctive and unconventional methods on both guitar and bouzouki managing to synergize classical, flamenco and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang: Burning Bridge

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In recent years, avant-garde music has had no more an effective champion than composer/violinist Jason Kao Hwang. With his longstanding quartet EDGE and three additional players, Burning Bridge extends and broadens Hwang's forward-thinking approach to composition and style. Where his brilliant collection, Crossroads Unseen (Euonymus Records, 2011), referenced subdued Asian-influences, Burning Bridge features a somewhat more pronounced cultural touch. Sun Li's pipa--a lute-like Chinese instrument that dates back two millennia--and Wang Guowei's erhu (a Chinese two-stringed violin) add distinctive traditional voices to the jazz and classical elements at work here.“Ashes, Essence" opens with the harmony between the pipa ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang: Burning Bridge

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Featuring the members of his quartet EDGE, violinist Jason Kao Hwang slashes through preconceived perimeters and bridges a cultural gap via his thoroughly modern vision on this concentrated effort, sparking innovation from a 360-degree stance. The complex premise for these intersecting works emanates from the passing of his mother, his Chinese heritage and life's experiences, all amalgamated into an album that breathes life anew. Dissonance and unorthodox phrasings opaquely coalesce with Hwang's thick staccato phrasings and sophisticated risk-taking approach, where solemn strings and horns passages segue into avant-like expansionism. The moving parts ring in an air of anticipation ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / EDGE: Crossroads Unseen

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Crossroads Unseen is violinist Jason Kao Hwang's third release with his all-star ensemble, EDGE, following Stories Before Within (Innova, 2007) and its 2006 self-titled debut (Asian Improv). Exploring uncharted territory between chamber music, jazz improvisation and traditional East Asian forms, EDGE boasts some of New York City's finest improvisers, including stalwart contrabassist Ken Filiano, rising cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and undersung percussionist Andrew Drury.For many Asian-American artists, incorporating traditions from cultures outside the Afro-European Diaspora has become one of creative improvised music's most pertinent challenges. Accommodating Pan-Asian micro-tonality, untempered scales and non-metered rhythms has intrigued jazz improvisers since ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / EDGE: Crossroads Unseen

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Composer/violinist, Jason Kao Hwang has been firmly establishing his credentials in free jazz since his quartet, EDGE, released its self-titled debut (Asian Improv, 2006). His résumé includes work with genre luminaries William Parker, Anthony Braxton, and Henry Threadgill. There are inevitable comparisons to Billy Bang, with whom Hwang has also played, but the two masters typically utilize a different line of development. Crossroads Unseen features the original EDGE personnel, a stellar line up of free jazz veterans, in outstanding performances of five long, riveting Hwang compositions. It's clear from the opening “Elemental Determination" that Hwang is not aiming ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Vision Festival 2010 - Opening Night

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Prologue | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 Opening Invocation, The Blues Escaped, Stomp It, Rob Brown New Quartet, Broken Flowers, In Order To SurviveVision FestivalAbrons Arts Center23 June 2010 After three days of activity across various downtown venues, the Vision Festival returned to the well-appointed Abrons Arts Center for the core part of the proceedings. Everything a small festival might need was on hand. Main theater with comfortable seating and air conditioning? Check. Smaller performance area which increases ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Edge: Stories Before Within

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Stories Before Within is the second album from violinist Jason Kao Hwang's three-year-old ensemble, Edge. Their self-titled debut for Asian Improv Records was one of 2006's sleeper hits, a record brimming with stirring melodies, unorthodox arrangements and stunning group interplay. No less imaginative, their follow-up blends Eastern and Western traditions with even greater conviction.

Joined again by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Andrew Drury, Hwang and company venture even further into Asiatic sonorities, exploring a wide array of stylistic variations over the course of these five long-form pieces.

Inspired by a Ukrainian street festival, “Cloud Call" ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Edge: Stories Before Within

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It is difficult to escape the storytelling element of the new release Stories Before Within. There's that title for one; the cover art prominently displays an open book and the first sentence in the liner notes emphatically declares, “as he prepared his new release by Edge, violinist-composer Jason Kao Hwang was thinking about storytelling." The quartet is led by Hwang (violin and viola) with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Andrew Drury (drums) and the wonderful bassist Ken Filiano. It is uncanny to note how structurally similar the tracks are to their literary counterparts. The first four tracks begin ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Edge: Stories Before Within

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Composer and violinist Jason Kao Hwang and his group Edge return with a story to tell on each of the five tracks on Stories Before Within. Hwang has long been a potent force in assimilating various styles of music, particularly Chinese, Korean and Japanese, with jazz. The result has been a startling cornucopia of thematic dynamics.

Hwang moves into new territory here, setting up his adventures with “Cloud Call," which was inspired by a Ukrainian street festival. The tune devolves on the motifs that drew him, but Hwang brings in his own ideas to flesh and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Sang Won Park: Local Lingo

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Through the 1990s, violinist Jason Kao Hwang mined an exploration of East Asian music filtered through the improvisatory language of downtown New York. Primarily with his Far East Band--with Sang Won Park on the stringed ajeng and kayagum and Yukio Tsuji on the flutelike shakuhachi, later augmented by Joe Daley's tuba--Hwang created an avant-garde take on the immigrant experience, representing the so-called melting pot of New York City with ingredients that still retain their individual flavors. Hwang and Park are now continuing their exploration of Eastern improv as a duo, having performed at the 2007 Vision Festival ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang / Sang Won Park: Local Lingo

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For a collaborative effort to be successful the protagonists need to be antagonists as well. A similar vision helps, but a divergent focus creates tension. Jason Kao Hwang (violin) and Sang Won Park (kayagum, ajeng, voice) have shown this over the sixteen years they have collaborated. Among their projects was the quartet, Far Eastside Band, which recorded The Urban Archealogy (Victo, 1996) and Caverns (New World Records, 1994). This time they work as a duo

Hwang uses several styles in his compositions. He writes in the pure tones of classical music, lets free form find its space and takes Korean ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang: Edge

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Violinist Jason Kao Hwang gathers a startling quartet to record Edge. Joining him on the front line is cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, his colleague in SpiderMonkey Strings and a fellow Anthony Braxton alumnus. Like Hwang, Bynum has left his mark on some of the premier ensembles of our time, including a tenure with Cecil Taylor. The rhythm sections boasts 9 Winds anchorman Ken Filiano, a mainstay of Vinny Golia's ensembles, and drummer Andrew Drury, late of Wadada Leo Smith and Adam Lane. Together, they take Hwang's direction and incinerate his compositions.

A dramatic fanfare introduces No Myth, then Filiano locks ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Kao Hwang: Edge

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Edge is the self-titled debut of violinist Jason Kao Hwang's new all-star quartet. Joined by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum (Fully Celebrated Orchestra, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor), bassist Ken Filiano and experimental percussionist Andrew Drury, Hwang sets aside his seminal, decade-old Far East Side Band for this new venture. Exploring the edges of different genres (hence the name) with subtle East Asian touches, Edge draws inspiration from a number of divergent styles on the album's four intricate long-form pieces.

With a driving pulse and a string of thematically connected solos, “No Myth" opens the album, introducing each member of ...



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