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Wednesday, 19 December 2012 14:25

Charting the Music: Jason Kao Hwang, 'Burning Bridge'

Charting the Music: Jason Kao Hwang, 'Burning Bridge' / Peter Gannushkin
Written by Travis Dettmann
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Jason Kao Hwang's most recent release is an eclectic collage of jazz, classical and Chinese music that sets aflame the traditional structure of the common jazz record. Let us indulge and joyously incinerate with "Burning Bridge."

"Burning Bridge" is 79 minutes of complexity, intertwining consonance with dissonance while uniting the conscious with the unconscious. Kao Hwang's movements capture life and death over five lengthy tracks.

88.1 KDHX Chart Position: #3 Jazz for the week of December 11, 2012.

Can be heard on: All Soul, No Borders with Josh Weinstein.

Record label, release date and producer: Innova Recordings released "Burning Bridge" on November 13th, 2012; the album was produced by Jason Kao Hwang.

RIYL: Jason Roebke, Mark Feldman and the Nu Band.

Hometown: Waukegan, Ill.

Standout tracks: While first crossing "Burning Bridge," one is instantly greeted by the longest journey of the record. "Ashes, Essence" is 22 minutes of audible chaos, linking unexpected coherency with constant confusion. "Ocean, O Sun" brings closure to all the beautiful destruction with Hwang solo on the last 50 seconds.

About the artist: Born in 1957, Jason Kao Hwang was the offspring of two China natives that left their country at the end of World War II. Hwang intelligently mixes written material with improvisation. Aside from performing and recording, Hwang has lectured at various colleges as well as having taught an Asian-American music course at New York University.

This label: The year was 1982 when Innova Records was founded in St. Paul, Minn. by the Minnesota Composers Forum, known now as the American Composers Forum. In the beginning, Innova released work by Minnesota composers through several sampler albums. Now, with 400 titles under its belt, Innova is more than just a jazz label; it releases experimental, classical, world and electronic records from all walks of life.

Did you know?: Hwang called upon Sun Li and Wang Guowei to operate two traditional Chinese instruments: the pipa and the erhu respectively. Existing for approximately 2,000 years, the pipa is a plucked pear-shaped wooden instrument that contains four strings with a neck consisting of 12 to 26 frets; it is considered one of China's most popular instruments. The erhu is essentially a two-stringed violin with no fret board. Both unusual but fascinating instruments are played upright vertically and while in a sitting position.

Play it while: Meditating.

What the critics say: "Hwang has said the way he mediates among his various musical worlds is a mix of conscious and unconscious processes: Some of the music is plotted out and some just floats to the top because of who he is. That natural flow is one of strengths of 'Burning Bridge'; the mixing doesn't feel contrived. To extrapolate a little, this multifaceted music recognizes how we all define ourselves in different ways at different times; our behavior shifts to accommodate coworkers, family, friends or strangers. Which is to say we're all code switchers. Jason Kao Hwang makes us hear what that sounds like." Kevin Whitehead, NPR.

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