Jason Kao Hwang / BURNING BRIDGE
Jason Kao Hwang – composer/violin, Taylor Ho Bynum - cornet/flugelhorn
Andrew Drury - drum set, Ken Filiano - string bass, Joseph Daley – tuba,
Sun Li – pipa, Steve Swell - trombone, Wang Guowei – erhu
photo by Scott Friedlander
2nd Row, L to R: Ken Filiano, Wang Guowei, Jason Kao Hwang, Joe Daley, Steve Swell,
1st Row L to R: Sun Li, Taylor Ho Bynum, Andrew Drury
With Burning Bridge, composer/violinist Jason Kao Hwang sets the boundaries of aesthetic sensibilities, cultural assumptions, and his personal history ablaze. Hwang burns bridges between the traditional roles of the ensemble’s instrumentation—whether jazz, classical, or traditional Chinese—to forge a single musical voice that resonates with distinct cultural overtones. With the poetic complexities inherent to this sound, the music possesses all the attributes of any human being. Burning Bridge is the experience, not the representation.
Burning Bridge was chosen on the following Best Jazz Recordings of 2012 lists: Kevin Whitehead, NPR, Fresh Air; Ed Hazell, Jazziz; Robert Iannapollo, NYC Jazz Record; Steve Koenig, Acoustic Levitation; Giuseppe Segala, All About Jazz, Italy; Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes
In 2015, Burning Bridge, with the support of U.S. Artists International, recently performed at the Festival de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Canada. They have also performed at the University of Massachusetts, Flushing Town Hall (NYC), Vision Festival (NYC), Roulette (NYC), Chicago World Music Festival, Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI), and the Bop Shop (Rochester, NY).
Burning Bridge by Jason Kao Hwang has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America’s 2009 New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Burning Bridge was featured in the 2018 summer issue of Chamber Music America Magazine.
Burning Bridge performed Jason Kao Hwang's new composition Blood at Edgefest (MI) in 2016. In 2017, they performed the NYC premiere at the Vision Festival.
Blood meditates upon the emotional traumas of war retained within the body as unspoken vibrations that reverberate throughout communities and across generations. Through blood the violence of deeply held memories are not relived but transposed into our sound and liberated into song. blood in our sound rises within our voice to protest and defy humanity’s constant state of war. blood regenerates and flows to entrain an infinite spectrum of waves into wholeness and strength.
One evening, while driving down an unlit highway, my headlights flashed upon the bleeding carcass of a deer. My heart rate thundered and air abandoned my lungs with explosive force as I swerved away, narrowly avoiding a collision. This shock to the senses made me reflect upon my mother’s harrowing experiences during World War II in China. She was in a pharmacy that was bombed by the Japanese. Knocked unconscious, she awoke as the lone survivor surrounded by the dead. I also thought about the musicians who fought in Viet Nam, like Billy Bang and Butch Morris. The magnitude of pain and sorrow that they endured is unimaginable.
Extreme danger triggers powerful, diametrically opposed forces, “fight or flight”. This conflict can produce an immobility response, which penetrates and remains within the body as emotional trauma. Similarly, when a bomb explodes, there is blast wave outward that leaves a near vacuum in its wake. This is filled by an equally deadly blast wind in the opposite direction. Within an explosion, Blood was created.
Click here for Biographies of the musicians.
The enormity of the piece did not truly settle in until it ended. Suddenly the feeling became overwhelming and the only thing you could do, was what many in the audience did, sigh and say “wow.” - Paul Acquire, Free Jazz Collective Read Full Review
The festival began innocently enough on Thursday at 8 at the Pavilion Arthabaska, a chalet overlooking the city of Victoriaville and the surrounding countryside, with a performance by Jason Kao Hwang's Burning Bridge octet, a string and brass band that played a sort of American free jazz with Chinese inflections and blues tonalities. Violin, pipa, erhu, and bass faced off across the stage with tuba, trumpet and trombone, doing a suite of compositions from Hwang's recording "Burning Bridge." Hwang's group achieved the balance that they were looking for. The compositions featured sections of duos, in all possible permutations of the string/bass combination, and the playing was full of color and texture, detailed, voices emerging unexpectedly behind whatever was the momentary focus. The colorings of Joe Daley's tuba and Sun Li's pipa were astonishingly subtle and effective, and the soloing of Hwang, trumpeter Herb Robertson and trombonist Steve Swell was inspired. Mike Chamberlain, All About Jazz, May 18, 2015 Read Full Review
Led by Jason Kao Hwang, the American virtuoso violinist, Burning Bridge combined erhu (two-stringed violin) and pipa (four-stringed lute) with a powerful horn section and mighty rhythm unit in a 90-minute set of originals. Irwin Block AMN Reviews, May 15, 2015 Read Full Review
Violinist Jason Kao Hwang stands at the crossroads of his influences - classical, jazz and traditional Chinese music - and sets the divisions between them ablaze.
DOWNBEAT, Shaun Brady - May 1, 2013 Read Full Review
That natural flow is one of strengths of Burning Bridge; the mixing doesn't feel contrived. To extrapolate a little, this multifaceted music recognizes how we all define ourselves in different ways at different times; our behavior shifts to accommodate coworkers, family, friends or strangers. Which is to say we're all code switchers. Jason Kao Hwang makes us hear what that sounds like.
National Public Radio, Kevin Whitehead - November 26, 2012 Read Full Review
Hwang has his finger firmly on the racing pulse of the 21st century, where everything interconnected and boundaries of time and geography seem hopelessly quaint. If there is a war cry for music of the new millennium, it might well be: Burn the bridges – there’s no going back.
Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post, November 22, 2010 Read Full Review
Burning Bridge is an incredibly personal journey that transcends the traditional review by becoming a complete experience for the critic and for the average listener... A truly stunning release of intimate beauty and simplicity.
Critical Jazz, Brent Black - June 12, 2013 Read Full Review
On Burning Bridge, the veteran experimentalist strips his enterprise down to an octet but reaches for the spheres to equally profound effect. The five-part work combines, sometimes strikingly, elements of jazz and classical and traditional Chinese music. In doing so, though, it strives not for seamlessness but for illuminating contrasts and juxtapositions. - JazzTimes, Lloyd Sachs - April 1, 2013 Read Full Review
Another key feature is the interplay between Chinese and Western instruments. Hwang frequently plays them off against each other... But rather than displaying an opposition or contrast, it's amazing how the two complement each other. This is also true of ensemble passages, where the blend can be invigorating and intoxicating....Hwang's composition, while epic in scope, conveys the intimacy of lives lived in a foreign culture.
- The New York City Jazz Record, Robert Iannapollo - December 1, 2012 Read Full Review
In the complexity and richness of these compositions, the sense of how accomplished Hwang—and all these musicians—are as instrumentalists can easily be lost... Burning Bridge is both a transcendent and challenging experience, and with repeated listening the characteristics of each movement can shift in emphasis, and become reinvented. - All About Jazz, Karl Ackerman - February 25, 2013 Read Full Review
The results are thoroughly convincing, conceptually strong and filled with excellent music, excellently performed.... What is reaffirming as well as a little startling is how well the music fits together. It comes across as whole, and significantly so at that. It's avant, free, composed, pan-ethnic (we are all ethnic after all) and completely inimitable. Gapplegate Music Review, Grego Applegate Edwards - February 8, 2013 Read Full Review
This absolutely blew me away when it was performed at the Vision Festival this year, and I craved a recording of it. Recorded shortly after that live performance, this CD is perhaps the best single release of the year. - Acoustic Levitation, Steven Koenig - January 28, 2013 Read Full Review