Symphony of Souls 
by Grady Harp 
October, 2011 
5 Stars 

Jason Kao Hwang is a unique artist. He is a composer and an conductor and violinist and he is one of the frontrunners in creative jazz. His technique focuses on improvisation and not only as a performer, but also as a composer. With the talent he holds he could easily branch into the Classical Music field - and actually that is exactly what he has accomplished: he melds the jazz idiom with classical music structure and creates works such as this SYMPHONY OF SOULS. The piece is written for 37 string instruments (violins I and II, violas, cellos, string basses, and drums) and Hwang's orchestra goes by the name Spontaneous River. According to the information shared in the CD cover it is a rather recent development in the instrumental world that has encouraged more and more string players to become involved n the improvisational movement. 'The power of Spontaneous River is drawn form both the sonic unity of strings and the undeniable individualism of each musician's vice.' The SYMPHONY OF SOULS is a spontaneous flow of notated passages and conducted improvisations that sing stories of life journey through an abundant sound emanating form blues, jazz, classical and world sources. According to Dr. Thomas Stanley, 'The orchestra is then summoned to explore soul as both a nexus of dialog and as the motive force compelling action and interaction... The music is a whole tree, but you can hear each individual leaf in motion.' ??So much for the didactics of this work. What the listener hears is a spectrum of sounds made possible only by a well trained group of musicians who respond to Hwang's ideas and directions - solo riffs, chorale like movements of blocks of sound that seem to fragment or disintegrate as the individual performers reach the point of spiritual release that allows them to offer the improvised commentary on the total scheme. There are suggestions of Philip Glass, John Adams, Olivier Messiaen and just as many suggestions of ancient string instruments not known to Western culture and uniting this is the concept of jazz - find a theme and improvise on it. It may take several repeated hours of listening to this just over an hour long work to 'get it', but once the listener has stepped inside jason Kao Hwang's world not contemporary music will seems the same. Music is written to speak to the soul - and this does.