by Byron Coley
May 14, 2015
Jason Kao Hwang is a Chinese- American violinist and composer who emerged from the NYC loft jazz scene. For the piece he played tonight (May 14), "Burning Bridge," Hwang assembled an octet with the rhythm section from his quartet, Edge, a brass trio of avant vets and two players of traditional Chinese strings. "Burning Bridge" is a five-part exploration of cultural history, tradition and frictions, with textural debts to Charles Mingus, Harry Partch and Charles Ives. The music wobbled back and forth between jazz and chamber music seamlessly. Similarly, the Chinese instruments were fully merged into the group's sound, although there were passages in which their unique characteristics were displayed, as in an insane duet for Hwang's violin and Sun Li's pipa. Actually, the most notable parts of the evening were solos: an Alan Silva-style arco explosion by bassist Ken Filiano, an incredible exhibit of weird tuba breath techniques by Joe Daley and an intentional trombone clam display by Steve Swell that would have given Buddy Rich an aneurism. I'm not sure it was greater than the sum of its parts, but the parts were damn good.