Jason Kao Hwang, on violin, viola and as a formidable composer, is an innovative force in the music of the present, an important voice in the avant jazz realms of today and a composer who manages to combine jazz and new music elements for a stirring, highly impactful sonics one must hear to appreciate.
His latest, Voice (Innova 938), brings that all home to us with a highly charged, two-suite presentation that straddles the avant garde of jazz and classical in highly dramatic and effective ways. "Lifelines" features mezzo-soprano Deanna Relyea, "Words of Our Own" centers on baritone Thomas Buckner. Both suites concentrate on the poetry of some of today's most fertile exponents: Lester Afflick, Patricia Spears Jones, davida singer, Fay Chiang, Steve Dalachinsky, Yuko Otomo.
Jason has composed the two suites around the vocalists' sung-spoken recitations, where they are given great improvisational leeway, articulating their parts totally ad lib in the spaces provided by the composer, to bring us a kind of nicely post-Pierrot Lunaire sprechstimme underneath which Hwang has composed sequences with improvisational freedom and structure for some of our finest avant jazz soloists: of course Jason Kao Hwang himself with (for "Lifelines") Taylor Ho Bynam on trumpet, Piotr Michalowski on sopranino sax and bass clarinet, Andrew Drury on drums, and Ken Filiano on contrabass. "Words of Our Own" brings in Joe McPhee on tenor and pocket trumpet, William Parker on contrabass, Sang Won Park on sayagum, ajeng and voice, and for a minute or two the Charles Gayle trio with Vattel Cherry and Marc Edwards.
The deft combination of experiential poetry, classically strong vocalists and innovative musical powerhouses operates excellently within the frameworks Jason Kao Hwang has constructed. The end result is a music that gives us full force sound-worlds filled with verbal and musical meaning, of expressions that capture something of life in the world today, of a music alive with a new modern intent born of the streets of experience as well as the great maelstrom of currents in the contemporary music world.
Jason Kao Hwang captures in his words, "essences I could not bring to consciousness before," through the words of the poems and the musical bringing-to-life that these talented ensembles make present via Hwang's exceptional conceptual and structural imagination.
This album is a landmark in vibrant, truly synthetic conjunctions of words and musical expressions, of the state-of-the-art in the avant today, with the world, history and time conjoined in two unified suites of great power and merit. It is a blockbuster and a tribute to the imaginative thrust of Jason Kao Hwang and his collaborative associates.
Bravo! Hear this music and hear where we ARE today!
-Grego Applegate, gapplegatemusic.review, Jan. 27, 2016 Online review