Violinist Jason Kao Hwang has participated in some interesting genre-bending ensembles over the past two decades. From his recording debut on William Parker's album, Commitment, he went on to work with musicians like Butch Morris, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Jerome Cooper, and Dominic Duval; lead his ensemble the Far East Side Band with Sang-Won Park and Yukio Tsuji; and compose pieces for dance ensembles and chamber opera. EDGE is both the name of this release and the name of the ensemble Hwang has formed with brass player Taylor Ho Bynum, bass player Ken Filiano, and drummer Andrew Drury. Bynum is an integral force in Anthony Braxton's recent ensembles. Filiano brings decades of experience playing in both composed and improvised contexts, and Drury went on from his studies with Ed Blackwell, to work with a growing list of musicians like Mark Dresser, Briggan Krauss, Adam Lane, and Jenny Scheinman. The four manage to meld their individual experiences into a group that can swing hard, evoke the pentatonics and timbres of Asian music traditions or a blues edge, and push toward freedom. The pieces are long enough to provide plenty of solo space for each member of the group. But Hwang's compositions frame each of the four pieces with melodic structure and ensemble counterpoint to keep this from becoming a mere blowing session. The mix of Bynum's breathy brass timbres and quicksilver phrasing is the perfect counterpoint to Hwang's soaring vocal lines that swing like mad, even at their freest. Filiano delivers his usual stellar intensity, whether filling out the bottom end of the ensemble with warm arco or driving against cornet and violin with rumbling plucked lines. Drury moves effortlessly from providing percussive color to driving the rhythms. Check him out on "Threads" where he sounds like a full Chinese percussion ensemble! This group hasn't been together long, but they're already generative a well-deserved buzz.
- Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise, September 30, 2007