October 16, 2006
Jason Kao Hwang
Asian Improv AIR0067
Coming to terms with sound heritages that are neither European nor African-American is one of improvised musics newest challenges. Yet violinist Jason Kao Hwang is one player who navigates the contradictions with ease.
Other Hwang projects unambiguously celebrate his Asian-American background. But Edge satisfies by taking his credentials as a given to be melded with other sonic elements. Only one of his four compositions is even vaguely Oriental, and thats probably more by inference than design.
If it seems that Hwangs playing an erhu on Grassy Hills and Taylor Ho Bynum initially is blowing a radung not a cornet, its a fleeting apparition. For the key to these episodic pieces is the binding of musical strands. Bynum, who works in Anthony Braxtons sextet, often uses grace notes to advance melodies. Alternately he fires off a series of throaty tremolo tones to duet with flying staccato fiddle vibrations. Distinctively and cross-culturally on Threads, his mellow flugelhorn tone resembles that of a shofars.
Architecturally organized, the tunes give bassist Ken Filiano dual roles: maintaining the walking beat, as Hwangs triple-stopping spiccato exposes complementary multiphonics; or stately double counterpoint with the violinist for string section unity. Meanwhile percussionist Andrew Drury bounces and rebounds on the bottom as needed. Elsewhere he rattles cymbals as if they were temple bells and treats snare tops as talking drums or wood blocks.
— Ken Waxman
CODA Issue 329