Jason Kao Hwang/Burning Bridge
Review by Shaun Brady, Downbeat
Burning one's bridges is typically seen as a break with the past. The flip side of the expression, though, is the necessity of moving forward. Violinist Jason Kao Hwang stands at the crossroads of his influences - classical, jazz and traditional Chinese music - and sets the divisions between them ablaze. Burning Bridge supplements Hwang's EDGE quartet with tuba player Joseph Daley, trombonist Steve Swell and virtuoso Chinese instrumentalists Sun Li (pipa) and Wang Guowei (erhu). The resulting palette is expansive, and Hwang explores its full range.
"Ahses, Essence" begins with a Henry Threadgill-esque melody that gives way to a spare violin/pipa duet, then proceeds through a series of severe abstractions for the first half of the 20-minute piece. Hwang examines the textural effects that emerge from different combination of instruments. A bluesy swing emerges around the 12-minute mark, eliciting soaring solos from Hwang and Swell. The lush, chorale-like introduction to "Worship, Whirling" is undercut by a barrage from drummer Andrew Drury. The elegance of the strings on "Incense, In Sense" gains a darker edge from Taylor Ho Bynum's slurring horn. Ken Filiano's elastic bass grooves take on strange contours when paired with Sun Li's pipa on "Ocean, O Sun."
Downbeat, May 1, 2013