Jason Kao Hwang/Burning Bridge
review by Brent Black, Critical Jazz
Chamber jazz taken to another level, a cross cultural excursion into time and space within the fabric of our individual existence.
Chamber jazz is one of the hotter sub genres in modern jazz at the present time and one that I am for the most part luke warm on at best. I have reviewed a dozen or so and while technically they are amazing works the vast majority comes off sounding like bad new age music. For the uninitiated, chamber jazz is essentially a modern fusion of classical music combined with more sophisticated jazz harmonies and lyrical development. After reviewing over ten thousand recording in three years I can say with some assurance that with only one artist attempting a crack at bringing more traditional Chinese music into the jazz family tree, pulling a chamber jazz work off with the addition of Chinese instrumentation and melody could well be a disaster simply waiting to happen.
Burning Bridge is a cross cultural hybrid that combines the form and function of the improvised music we know as jazz here in the west with classical scoring and traditional Chinese music. A dazzling display if not conceptual look at the minutia that makes up every day life and how it may fit in that grand scheme of things or the proverbial burning bridge that makes up the core of an individuals daily existence. A study in microcosms...
One of the key elements that makes Burning Bridge such an intriguing release is the ebb and flow of the stories within a story. Stories without words carrying the listener off in their infinite wake asking nothing more in return than for the individual to simply listen. Referring to the ambient feel of the recording as "zen like" would be a bit predictable at best but accurate all the same. The predictability lies in the effortless movement and subtle nuances and delightful intricacies brought forth from instruments such as the pipa or the erhu.
To break down this recording by compositional analysis would be a pointless endeavor and the equivalent of judging someones life and times by only looking at selected years. Burning Bridge is an incredibly personal journey that transcends the traditional review by becoming a complete experience for the critic and for the average listener.
Jason Kao Hwang said it best in describing Burning Bridge as the experience, not the representation.
-- Critical Jazz, Brent Black - June 12, 2013