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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jason Kao Hwang's Edge - Stories Before Within (Innova, 2008) ****

This is violinist Jason Kao Hwang's second release with his "Edge" band, consisting of Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Ken Filiano on bass and Andrew Drury on drums, and like the previous release, the music is excellent, open to world influences or modern classical while being predominantly jazz. Jason Kao Hwang mixes these different influences, both thematically and rhythmically into new musical forms, drawing "the improviser forward into a place in which they reveal their essence,” he writes in the liner notes. “We hear each individual musician spontaneously respond to the vibration field that illuminates what the heart searches for. Improvisation discovers and reveals another universe.” The pieces' length allow for such long and open variation, mood, tempo and style changes. "Cloud Call" starts with almost classical violin, then moving into mid-tempo improvisation, coming to a climax half-way with the whole band, then falling away and leaving the space to Taylor Ho Bynum to give a great and sensitive improvisation, spurred on by Filiano, and ending in a joyful and spirited manner by the whole band. "From East Sixth Street" starts funky with drums, bass and trumpet, moving into a great violin and arco bass duet in the middle part, a nice drum part by Drury, and ending with the core theme. "Walking Pictures", is bluesy, with walking bass and moody trumpet, evolving into a more avant rhythmless expressiveness when the violin takes over, screeching and crying, and back to walking bass in more traditional form, leading to a great impactful bass solo by Filiano. "Third Sight" is influenced by Korean music, starting with a unisono theme and otherwise not special if it weren't again for Filiano's playing. The last track "Embers" is a winner. The slow viola intro, accompanied by sparse trumpet notes, very light and very deep, moody and abstract, and when Filiano joins on arco and Drury accentuates with great cymbal work, the musical richness becomes complete, for a real slow impressionistic piece with stellar bowing work by both Jason Kao Hwang and Ken Filiano. In all, an excellent album with four great musicians, great musical vision by Jason Kao Hwang.

Listen and download from eMusic.