Review of EDGE concert in Krakow by the Free Jazz Alchemist, October 18, 2011
The EDGE (J. Kao Hwang / T. Ho Bynum / K. Filiano / A. Drury) at Alchemia (16.10)
After a rock warm-up with Kazutoki Umezu KIKI band and almost a month-long break finally the Krakowska Jesien Jazzowa (Autumn Jazz Festival) is really on! And it starts with a real blast. The Edge played their last concert of of a small tour (concerts in Poznan and in Katowice on previous days) - their first ever visit to Poland. And they were very happy to finish that tour on Alchemia's stage, which, apparently, is more famous overseas than in Krakow.
And from the very first moments you know you're in for a treat - a strong bass pulse, freewheeling drumming with a slight latin tinge (cowbell) and furious soloing in between the tricky, intricate themes. Music whose complexity doesn't alternate it's live, vibrant, dynamic and passionate character.
The EDGE repertoire consists of heavily written, multifaceted pieces that all include several shifts in mood and tempo, while mantaining the narration structure. The music draws on jazz harmonies, blues scales, chamber-like pensieve chords, some cinematic noir suspense, asian folk melodicism. As there are no real genre boundaries the compositional discipline only apparently limits the musicians' freedom - the music structure is immensely varied and allows generous solo time for all four of the musicians.
Among the highlight's of the night I find the full of suspense (mallets on the plates) mini-orchestral theme of "The Path around the House" (this dramatic edge, theatrical quite often characterizes their music). Ken Filiano's solo in where he simultaneously plays low open strings with the right hand and taps the melody with the left - not only a virtuosic exhibition but a statement full of melody, lyricism and imagination, his tone both bluesy and majestic and he has a knack for a melody. "3rd side" tune that most openly explores the asian heritage featuring a delicate, touching solo violin (an instrument that in Hwang hands can sing like an angel, crystal like a teardrop, or create fiery sparks as if there's no tomorrow). A violin - gongs meditative and peacefull duo. A handfull of Bynum's solos - flurried, sharp phrases, playing with the mutes (cd, metal mute, hat, rubber) but also adventureously experimental (there's this amazing thing he does I've no idea how to get a low didgeridoo-scale like sound, ancient, primal, total). Finally the last piece of the evening (before the encore) "One Day" where the rhythm section just nails it - tricky rhythmic theme, than unrelentless swing, the lightly funky section with Andrew doing breaks on hi-hat and snare drum around the hoppy lines of the bass, finally a drums-bass duo, fearless, full of unhindered energy - Drury blows into the drums through metallic con to create an eerie resonance and finally shouts and screams out of excitement.
For the encore (the appreciative audience wouldn't let them free) the band plays "Grassy Hills", an old piece by Hwang he used to play with The Commitment group, a mournfull, spiritual ballad, highlighted again by a soaring violin solo.
The EDGE manages to play the music that is unimistakeably jazz (the virtuosic and passionate soloing, the level of real-time interplay, the bluesy base at times or the swinging pulse) yet equally unmistakeably modern (the composition's intricancy, the love for chamber sound and dramaturgy) and intercultural (New York, Asia, folk, rock, classical, blues, jazz, experimental), adventourous, immaginative and disciplined. Quite an achievement but more importantly - just great music. If you get a chance to hear them - don't miss it.
ps. On most trivial yet entertaining note: while Jason would change the mike between violin and viola, the band would play a short ad-hoc interlude - a circus theme (Taylor proves to be quite a whistler) or a blues sung a'la opera. It's great to see the musicians enjoying themselves on stage and being able to create a direct rapport with the audience (those interludes are immediately met with smile and laughter - it's hard to think of any kind of reaction that would be more honest and appreciative).
- Freejazz Alchemist, Free Jazz Alchemist - November 18, 2011