Each composition is a progression of gestures, songs, movements and locations that bring participants into a state of discovery and compassion. Within these Human Rites, individual voices are empowered to be fully expressive so that each moment is unpredictable and deeply intentional. This psychic intensity, both sacred and sacrificial, provokes a heightened awareness that unifies Listeners and Musicians within a spiritual entrainment. As we hear ourselves within music we become Music, which is no longer a performance but an affirmation of justice and celebration of life.
I wish to thank Andrew Drury and Ken Filiano for their creativity, dedication and friendship.
This CD was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The music honors all the heroic doctors, nurses, and frontline workers who are saving so many lives. The music is also dedicated to the memory of all the people whom we tragically lost to this terrible disease.
– Jason Kao Hwang
Jason Hwang and his longtime bandmates Ken Filiano (bass) and Andrew Drury (drums) could only have made this recording now, after having persevered – individually and collectively – through life’s trials and errors to get to this point of effortless musical mastery, where they can converse freely and eloquently in a language created together over years of collaboration. Certainly, the intimate experience of engaging with this music as a trio for at least a year, testing it in concert after concert, making revisions and discoveries all along the way, has engendered a truly remarkable depth of shared feeling and common understanding among them.
Words Asleep Spoken Awake aptly showcases the way Hwang’s compositions channel his trio’s incredible chemistry, as increasingly syncopated chromatic string lines provide a recurring frame of reference for mutually responsive interplay weaving funk, swing, and free sections together with consistent thematic coherence. Even when playing separately, all three keep resonating together; just listen to the seamless flow among their successive individual solos leading into the stately recapitulating coda. Filiano begins the sequence with an arco statement, densely textured with double-stopped multiphonics echoed and elaborated, in a deft segue, by Drury’s solo on floor tom (which he plays by blowing air through a plumbing fixture onto his sliding-bell-tuned drumhead). Hwang’s solo picks up just where Drury’s leaves off, expanding upon the rough-hewn lyricism, while reintroducing the restless chromatic agitation to be foregrounded immediately thereafter in the final ensemble passage.
It takes three to tango – and shuffle – in Conscious Concave Concrete, whose first part starts out with rhythmically insistent vamps propelling improvisations into the rubato viola solo that serves as a pivot into the powerful blues groove that follows. Throughout, Hwang’s Korean influenced pizzicato viola provides continuity across the two contrasting sections while highlighting cosmopolitan aesthetic affinities.
Such artful transgression of conventional generic boundaries further manifests itself in 2AM, as the off-beat counterpoint of its opening exposition gets distilled down to Filiano’s loping asymmetrical bass line, which evolves from violin-solo accompaniment into an extemporized lead voice in its own right before giving impetus to Drury’s concluding drum solo over string tremolos.
From a certain perspective, Battle for the Indelible Truth – in its progression from raw string-shredding expressionism, through hybrid Afro-Asian ecumenicism, to poignantly direct lyricism – might conceivably bear witness to Hwang’s own aesthetic journey, testifying to his deep roots in the Lower East Side avant-garde scene while offering abundant evidence of the transformative revelations he’s experienced since the loft era.
Last but not least, Defiance finds this trio reaping the rich rewards of sustained musical rapport, so amply demonstrated by the dynamic call and response here between composition and improvisation, with written lines serving as inspirational points of departure for individually conceived, and often contrapuntally interwoven, elaborations of the thematic material at hand.
Over the fifteen years since they recorded their debut together, Hwang’s artistic synergy with Filiano and Drury has gained such depth and profundity with each successive project – from his Edge quartet through his Spontaneous River string orchestra, his Burning Bridge octet, and his Sing House quintet – that it seems a single gesture can now send all three into a sublime state of sympathetic resonance. As we marvel at the collaborative interplay of their individual voices united here once again in common purpose, we can only look forward to many further shared journeys of musical discovery still ahead. – Scott Currie
All Compositions by Jason Kao Hwang ℗ ©2020 Jason Kao Hwang, Flying Panda Music, BMI All Rights Reserved
Recorded August 5 and 6, 2019 at Park West Studios, Brooklyn, NY
Producer/Mix Engineer: Jason Kao Hwang
Recording Engineer: Jim Clouse
Mastering: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions
Mix Consultants: Ken Filiano, Andrew Drury
Design: William Mazza
Liner Notes: Scott Currie
Group and Concert Photos: RI Sutherland-Cohen
Cover Photo: Jason Kao Hwang
True Sound Recording TS03
Special Thanks: Gennevieve Lam; Patricia and William Parker, Todd Nicholson/Arts for Art; Bobby Hill/Transparent Productions; Layne Garrett, Steve Korn/Rhizome; Deanna Relyea/Edgefest; James Keepnews, Steve Ventura and all the good people at Quinn’s; Stephen Gauci; Bruce Gallanter/Downtown Music Gallery; Stephen Campiglio/Mishi-maya-gat Spoken Word & Music Series; Tony Falco/The Falcon; Randy Thaler, Maurice D. Robertson
The music of Jason Kao Hwang (composer/violin/viola) explores the vibrations and language of his history. His compositions are often narrative landscapes through which sonic beings embark upon extemporaneous, transformational journeys. His most recent releases, Conjure, his duo with Karl Berger, and Blood, performed by Burning Bridge, his octet of Chinese and Western instruments, have received critical acclaim. In 2019, 2018, 2013 and 2012, the El Intruso International Critics Poll voted him #1 for Violin/Viola. In 2017 Downbeat Magazine named his quintet Sing House as one of the best of the year. His 2015 CD Voice, which features vocalists Deanna Relyea and Tom Buckner received critical acclaim. Zilzal, his duets with Ayman Fanous, was named one of the Top CDs of 2014 by All About Jazz/ Italy. The 2012 Downbeat Critics’ Poll voted Mr. Hwang as Rising Star for Violin. The first Burning Bridge was one of the top CDs of 2012 by Jazziz and the Jazz Times. In 2011 he released Symphony of Souls performed by his improvising string orchestra, Spontaneous River. In 2010, the New York Jazz Record selected Commitment, The Complete Recordings, 1981-1983 from a collective that was Mr. Hwang’s first band, as one the 2010 Reissued Recordings of the Year. His quartet EDGE released, EDGE (2006), Stories Before Within (2008), and Crossroads Unseen (2011), all of which appeared on many top ten of the year lists. His chamber opera The Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown was one of the Top Ten Opera Recordings of 2005 by Opera News. As composer, Mr. Hwang has received support from Chamber Music America, NEA, Rockefeller Foundation, NY Community Trust, NJSCA, NYSCA, US Artists International and others. As violinist, he has worked with William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Butch Morris, Reggie Workman, Pauline Oliveros, Tomeka Reid, Patrick Brennan, Will Connell, Jr., Zen Matsuura, Oliver Lake, Adam Rudolph, Jerome Cooper and others.
Andrew Drury is a drummer, composer, and organizer who has performed in 30 countries and on 70 recordings, recently recognized by All About Jazz as “one of the most adventurous drummer/percussionists in creative music today, and a dedicated humanitarian.” A long-time student of the legendary drummer Ed Blackwell, he performs as a soloist and leads ensembles of all sizes—most recently Content Provider featuring Ingrid Laubrock, Briggan Krauss, Brandon Seabrook. In addition to his work with Jason Kao Hwang and Ken Filiano he has worked in the last decade with J. D. Parran, Ku-umba Frank Lacy/1032K, Stephanie Richards, Robert Dick, Kris Davis, Alan Braufman, Cooper-Moore, Satoko Fujii, Thomas Buckner, Joseph Daley, Aruán Ortiz, Tomeka Reid, Roswell Rudd, Jack Wright, Bonita Oliver, and many more. He is a pioneer of extended percussion techniques involving friction and which turn the drum into a wind instrument. Drury is the founding director of Continuum Culture & Arts, a non-profit organization that has presented over 150 Soup & Sound house concerts and events involving film, dance, writing, performance art, and humanities discussions in the US, Europe, and South America. Continuum also facilitates international cultural exchange with artists in 40 countries, provides educational programming in homeless shelters and schools across the US and abroad. He has led over 1,500 workshops and masterclasses in universities, prisons, Indian reservations, schools, Central American villages, and shelters for homeless people and battered women. In 2017 Drury received a Jubilation Foundation Fellowship for “spreading joy through rhythm.”
Ken Filiano, bass player, composer, improviser, has been performing throughout the world for thirty years, collaborating with leading artists in multiple genres, fusing the rich traditions of the double bass with his own seemingly limitless inventiveness. Ken leads two quartets, Quantum Entanglements, and Baudalino's Dilemma (Vinny Golia, Warren Smith, Michael TA Thompson), and is a co-leader of The Steve Adams/Ken Filiano Duo and TranceFormation (Connie Crothers, Andrea Wolper.) His extensive discography includes a solo bass CD, “subvenire” (NineWinds), and “Dreams From a Clown Car" (Clean Feed), which presents his compositions for his quartet, Quantum Entanglements (Michael Attias, Tony Malaby, Michael TA Thompson). For these and numerous other recordings and performances, critics have called Ken a "creative virtuoso," a "master of technique" . . . "a paradigm of that type of artist. . . who can play anything in any context and make it work, simply because he puts the music first and leaves peripheral considerations behind."* Ken has performed and/or recorded with Karl Berger, Bobby Bradford, Anthony Braxton, Connie Crothers Quartet, Bill Dixon, Ted Dunbar, Giora Feidman Quartet, Vinny Golia ensembles, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jason Kao Hwang, Joseph Jarman, Raul Juarena, Joelle Leandre, Frank London, Tina Marsh, Warne Marsh, Dom Minasi, Barre Phillips, Roswell Rudd, ROVA Saxophone Qt., Paul Smoker, Peeter Uuskyla, Fay Victor Ensemble, Pablo Zielger, and many more. Ken is on the teaching roster at the New School in New York, and has been a guest artist lecturer at School of Visual Arts and Hunter College (New York). He teaches master classes in bass and improvisation, and has a private bass studio in Brooklyn.
REVIEWS OF EARLIER CDS
CONJURE: Subtle, beautiful, haunting, masterful and delicately commanding, the duo of pianist and vibraphonist Karl Berger and Jason Kao Hwang on violin and viola recorded these 8 dialogs in Berger's Woodstock studio, their familiarity from Hwang's participation in Berger's Creative Music Orchestra summoning lyrical and sensitive music, finding profundity in restraint. - Squidco
BURNING BRIDGE, BLOOD: By constantly alternating the density of the orchestrations, Hwang suggests different scenarios that correspond to transformative states of mind. The thrills of spontaneity come from individual statements but also from interspersed interlocutions with two or three musicians. After all, this is music of exploration and reflection. Felipe Freitas, jazztrail.net,
SING HOUSE: Hwang's music provides just the right balance between structure and freedom, as illustrated vividly on these four well-crafted tracks...Hwang's leaps and flights are especially impressive, showcasing his superb dexterity while the band surges powerfully behind him...Much of the music turns on the rhythmic foundation provided by Filiano and Drury. They possess the finely-honed instincts of having played together for years, and the complexity of Hwang's compositions requires those instincts to be fully utilized...But to be sure, all five musicians work as an integrated unit, and that ultimately is the reason why the album succeeds. - Troy Dostert, All About Jazz, July 11, 2017
VOICE: VOICE, Hwang's recent release on Innova (and reviewed here), offers a striking example of his audacious artistic sensibility, and it was this striking fusion of poetry and improvised instrumental accompaniment that prompted me to contact Hwang for the following exchange. - Ron Schepper, Textura.com, Feb. 2016