DCist Preview: Jason Kao Hwang's EDGE @ Bohemian Caverns
BY SRIRAM GOPAL IN ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT ON APR 20, 2012 3:00 PM
Jason Kao Hwang, photo by Michael Dames.
Jazz has long been a cross-cultural art form that freely incorporates melodies, instruments and rhythms from any and all traditions. That's not at all surprising given the melting pot that gave birth to this music. So if freedom to explore and improvise using any influence is central to jazz, then there are few musicians who embody this ethos more than violinist Jason Kao Hwang, who will be leading a group on Sunday evening at the historic Bohemian Caverns.
Hwang will be performing with his quartet, EDGE, a highly interactive group comprised of Hwang on violin and viola, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Andrew Drury and bassist Ken Filiano. The ensemble draws from free and traditional jazz, music from Hwang's East Asian heritage, as well as his upbringing as a classically trained violinist.
"For the music of improvisation, the improviser's voice is of equal or even greater concern than orchestration," said Hwang. "That being said, the orchestration of EDGE is a wonderful vehicle for my compositions. Taylor's cornet has a vocal quality that can merge with my violin and viola with infinite colors. With Ken's bass, the string section of EDGE is full, able to contrast with Taylor's brass as well. Andrew's extended technique on drums, which includes bowing cymbals and dust pans, adds to our melodic spectrum."
EDGE will be supporting its most recent recording, Crossroads Unseen, which was released last fall. The music drew on themes of life and death, with improvisers fading in and out, embarking on an exploration that Hwang called "a journey that is purifying and transformational." While the material is certainly challenging -- this is the antithesis of any pop music -- the album contains a high level of communication among band members that is sure to carry over to the stage.
"With each recording, our individual and collective language has grown," Hwang said. "We continue to strive towards a stronger, truer expression."
The 55-year old Hwang's career stretches back to the early '80s, when he first worked and recorded with Commitment, another collective quartet. Other projects include the octet,Burning Bridge, which made its D.C. debut last year, and a chamber operal called Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown. As for EDGE, they have had a long relationship with WPFW disc jockey Bobby Hill, whose Transparent Productions is producing Sunday's performance as part of a series aimed at bringing more non-traditional jazz to local audiences. A highlight of the upcoming show will be EDGE's rendition of "Lament", a solo violin piece that Hill came across, which Hwang agreed to arrange for the group.
"Clarence Cameron White was an African American violinist/composer that rose to prominence in the early 20th century," said Hwang of the piece's writer. "It is exciting to know that "Lament" has probably not been performed in a very long time."