By Jerry D’Souza
All About Jazz
May 28, 2006
Jason Kao Hwang is on the edge not only with this recording, but with his band as well. Both share the name, and the reason becomes apparent when listening to the record. Hwang nestles comfortably in a wide range of genres while exploring this musical journey. The violinist has created works that have the harmony of jazz, the structure of chamber music, and the freedom of invention; all show an expansive, yet focused vision and use structure to varying degrees. Edge takes the compositions into another dimension and then returns to revisit the original motifs.
Surprise is the key element on "No Myth, which moves seamlessly between melodic groove and exploration. Early in the adventure, Hwang has an intense conversation with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. Then he creates a charged atmosphere, bowing thick notes on the violin and angling into the upper registers with an incisive and hard-hitting trajectory. Bynum is one of the most exciting exponents of free jazz, and his horn continues to hail the praises of the form. He smears lines and wraps short runs in blurry notes, all with an intense urgency that makes his presence riveting. Ken Filiano's bass slows the momentum and brings in a fresh expanse of innovation; Andrew Drury's unconventional percussion accents help make a compact whole.
A strong and beautiful melody graces "Grassy Hills. Once again Hwang and Bynum play entwined tines, but this time they are gentle and fluid, staying within the framework. When Bynum comes out on his own, he changes the direction, at first with calm poise, then getting a tad aggressive through his trademark smears and sharp interjections. Hwang completes the spell, his violin a sentinel for emotional power. He seems as much at ease in a ripe melodic air as he is on the open plateau where imagination runs free.
Track Listing: No Myth; Threads; Parallel Meditations; Grassy Hills.
Personnel: Jason Kao Hwang: composer, violin; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Andrew Drury: percussion; Ken Filiano: string bass.
Record Label: Asian Improv Records