5 Songs, 1 Hour 18 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Violinist and composer Jason Kuo Hwang, who's Chinese-American, has led projects that integrate Asian elements, jazz, and other sounds. His 2012 release Burning Bridge is one such effort. A five-part original composition takes up the whole album, which features an eight-man ensemble. The group’s instrumentation includes violin, cornet, trombone, tuba, bass, and drums, as well as pipa (Chinese lute) and erhu (Chinese spike fiddle). The 22-minute opening track, “Ashes, Essence,” which has a variety of instrumental groupings, takes listeners on an intriguing journey. The instruments aren’t simply contrasted to emphasize an East-meets-West scenario; they're integrated to create an unusually rich timbral palette. (Check out, for instance, the contrast between low-end brass and the various stringed instruments.) The beginning of “Worship, Whirling,” with its freewheeling drums and hymn-like statement, evokes Albert Ayler, while one section of “Incense, in Sense” sounds like an avant-garde version of Asian court music. Burning Bridge contains multitudes.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Violinist and composer Jason Kuo Hwang, who's Chinese-American, has led projects that integrate Asian elements, jazz, and other sounds. His 2012 release Burning Bridge is one such effort. A five-part original composition takes up the whole album, which features an eight-man ensemble. The group’s instrumentation includes violin, cornet, trombone, tuba, bass, and drums, as well as pipa (Chinese lute) and erhu (Chinese spike fiddle). The 22-minute opening track, “Ashes, Essence,” which has a variety of instrumental groupings, takes listeners on an intriguing journey. The instruments aren’t simply contrasted to emphasize an East-meets-West scenario; they're integrated to create an unusually rich timbral palette. (Check out, for instance, the contrast between low-end brass and the various stringed instruments.) The beginning of “Worship, Whirling,” with its freewheeling drums and hymn-like statement, evokes Albert Ayler, while one section of “Incense, in Sense” sounds like an avant-garde version of Asian court music. Burning Bridge contains multitudes.

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About Jason Kao Hwang

Violinist/violist Jason Kao Hwang is a gifted performer involved in creative improvised contemporary music based on jazz, classical, and world music elements. Born in New York City in 1957 to a family of Chinese descent, Hwang developed interests in avant-garde music, jazz, and traditional Asian music. In the '70s he was part of the New York loft scene, a think tank for progressive innovators and improvisers. He was also a member of the writer's wing of the Basement Workshop, a historic Asian-American arts conclave in New York City's Chinatown. Some of the musicians to spring from this collective were Gerald Oshita, Fred Houn, and Miya Masaoka. He also drew early inspiration from such creative improvisers of the day as Henry Threadgill, Borah Bergman, Butch Morris, Reggie Workman, and Ken McIntyre.

Although he had recorded since the '70s, working with William Parker, Billy Bang, and others, Hwang debuted as a solo artist in 1990 with Unfolding Stone. During this period, he also became known for fronting the Far East Side Band alongside Sang-Won Park, Joe Dailey, Satoshi Takeishi, and Yukio Tsuji. The group combined exotic instruments such as the taiko, kayagum, tuba, and his violin. They issued two CDs on the Victor and New World labels (1994's Caverns and 1996's Urban Archaeology) and toured worldwide, including Beijing, China. Hwang also led a trio, documenting music for the Sound Aspects and Flying Panda labels. As an accompanist, Hwang worked with such luminaries as Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Vladimir Tarasov, Tatsu Aoki, Pheeroan akLaff, and many more.

Along with his own works, he has performed and co-arranged music for the original stage production of the Tony Award-winning M Butterfly. His scores were also commissioned by the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, his composition "Flight of Whispers" was underwritten and performed as Music for Homemade Instruments for CRI Records on a compilation recording of Chinese-American composers, and he wrote the 2001 chamber opera The Floating Box: A Story in Chinatown. An avid educator, Hwang has taught at several grade levels including founding adult classes in Asian-American Music at New York University and lecturing at Westminster and Brooklyn Colleges. High-school students at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas benefited from his instruction of music, oral histories, and poems from 2002 through 2005, and he conducted workshops with Young Audiences/New York for elementary-school students and teachers in composition and improvised music.

Since the mid-2000s, he has led the collective group EDGE featuring drummer Andrew Drury, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, and bassist Ken Filiano. They have recorded for the Asian Improv and Innova labels, issuing albums like 2006's EDGE and 2011's Crossroads Unseen. In 2013 he paired with guitarist and bouzouki player Ayman Fanous for Zilzal. Hwang and EDGE then collaborated with Deanna Relyea and Thomas Buckner on the poetry-infused Voice in 2016. The following year he joined pianist Chris Forbes and trombonist Steve Swell, as well as his EDGE bandmates Drury and Filiano, for the inventive Sing House. ~ Michael G. Nastos

HOMETOWN
New York City, NY
GENRE
Jazz
BORN
1957

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