167

Jason Kao Hwang / EDGE: Crossroads Unseen

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Jason Kao Hwang / EDGE: Crossroads Unseen 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 for a straightforward listen. The composition requires leaning into the music for better understanding, but that level of concentration ultimately pays off—complex in structure, even when not clear if said structure has been left behind. "The Path Around the House" opens with percussionist, Andrew Drury keeping time, with a pulsing beat created by Hwang plucking the violin strings. A samba rhythm quickly develops and bassist Ken Filiano picks up that beat in the background as an Asian-influenced sing-song cadence takes over. All of this occurs less than one minute into this twelve-minute piece. If it sounds as if it is a difficult listen, it is, in reality, a thoroughly absorbing journey.

Taylor Ho Bynum plays flugelhorn on the first two tracks, soloing remarkably on each, complimented by Hwang's ability to make his violin mimic a wind instrument. Filiano frequently picks up the bow for impromptu string duets with Hwang, as he does on "Transients," following an excellent solo from Drury. The title track has the feel of a steam locomotive leaving the station and the effect is perfect, seeming to struggle at first, trying to get out from under some unseen weight, but with a tension that anticipates a breakout. Again, Hwang demonstrates that he is not about to make things undemanding, as the flight reverses into a melancholy passage and melodic bass solo. Hwang, now on viola, makes the instrument weep in sympathy with Filiano's bass.

Hwang has the ability to make it feel like the music itself is thinking about the next direction it will take. As an arranger, he goes well beyond a broad canvas, getting paint everywhere, but his vision is never out of focus. Every space is filled with sound and it's no accident that there is an orchestral feel. Hwang is concurrently releasing Symphony of Souls (Mulatta Records, 2011), with a 38-piece string orchestra, but the large sound receptivity is here as well. Drury turns the drum kit into a creative workshop, both nuanced and forceful, and propelling each shifting piece skillfully. Filiano alternates playing pizzicato and bow with the speed and dexterity of two musicians. And, with Hwang and Bynum doubling up on their respective instrumental responsibilities, it's no wonder that the quartet often sounds as full as an octet.

The notion that the next great force in new jazz could be a violinist may seem a bit incongruous, but Crossroads Unseen is fresh, exciting and creative, and one of the best recordings of the year.


Track Listing: Elemental Determination; The Path Around the House; Transients; Crossroads Unseen; One Day.

Personnel: Jason Kao Hwang: composer, violin, viola; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Andrew Drury: percussion; Ken Filiano: string bass.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Euonymus Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Shuffle Along" CD/LP/Track Review Shuffle Along
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 25, 2016
Read "Supreme" CD/LP/Track Review Supreme
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "December Songs" CD/LP/Track Review December Songs
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "Bridges From The East" CD/LP/Track Review Bridges From The East
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 29, 2016
Read "The Intergalactic Thing" CD/LP/Track Review The Intergalactic Thing
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 1, 2016
Read "December Songs" CD/LP/Track Review December Songs
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 5, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!