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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 Bandwith Sang Won Park on the stringed ajeng and kayagum and Yukio Tsuji on the flutelike shakuhachi, later augmented by Joe Daley's tubaHwang 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 and now with their first duo CD. But where the Far East Band had a cross-cultural feel, Local Lingo is distinctly Asiatic and with more of a smear of abstraction. The opening piece, "Listen, is built around a call-and-response, with Hwang stating a slow melody line and Park repeating it, bowing his strings down to a detuned growl.
"Ari Rang is a traditional Korean song (a populist movement is even pushing for it to be made the national anthem) plaintively sung by Park and used as a springboard for delicate variation. Over the course of the five tracks, the duo displays a beautiful restraint, slowly engaging (and disengaging) themes with a remarkable compatibility. While the different tunings and scales of traditional Eastern music can sound alien to Western ears, here the increasingly global language of joint improvisation bridges the divide.
Track Listing: Listen; Ari Rang; Grassy Hills; Third Sight; Embers.
Personnel: Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Sang Won Park: Kayagum, ajeng, voice.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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