Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
167

Jason Kao Hwang / EDGE: Crossroads Unseen

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count Views
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 For Jazz

Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Zilzal
Zilzal
Innova Recordings
2014
buy
Burning Bridge
Burning Bridge
Innova Recordings
2013
buy
Burning Bridge
Burning Bridge
Innova Recordings
2012
buy
Crossroads Unseen
Crossroads Unseen
Euonymus Records
2011
buy
Stories Before Within
Stories Before Within
Innova Recordings
2008
buy
Local Lingo
Local Lingo
Euonymus Records
2007
buy
Albert Ayler Albert Ayler
sax, tenor
Steve Lacy Steve Lacy
sax, soprano
Henry Grimes Henry Grimes
bass, acoustic
Hamid Drake Hamid Drake
percussion
Oliver Lake Oliver Lake
saxophone
Fay Victor Fay Victor
vocalist
Billy Bang Billy Bang
violin
Fred Frith Fred Frith
guitar

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.