By Grady Harp
December 13, 2013
Wake up the senses for this rather amazing new sound courtesy of Ayman Fanous and Jason Kao Hwang. This is contemporary instrumental music of great beauty, depth, energy, and sensitivity. It represents a snapshot of the complexities, richness, anxieties, exuberances, and polyglot accommodations of 21st century American life.
Leaning on the liner notes for background, ‘Ayman Fanous (guitar, bouzouki) was born in Cairo, Egypt but was raised in the US since age 5. He began classical violin studies at 7 but switched to the guitar at 12. He briefly studied classical guitar at James Madison University. However, he has been mostly self-taught, and has developed a trademark sound incorporating original extended techniques. He also reaches back into his Egyptian ancestry in improvisations on the bouzouki. Jason Kao Hwang (composer, violin/viola) has created works ranging from jazz, “new” and world music. His octet, Burning Bridge, was commissioned by Chamber Music America/ New Jazz Works, featuring Chinese and Western instruments. His opera, The Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown hi=as been highly honored and performed.'
But what happens when these two collaborate is a unique, otherworldly experience – it becomes a very gentle earthquake. The instrumentation is as follows: Ayman Fanous, Guitar on tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 and Bouzouki on tracks 1, 5, and 9, Jason Kao Hwang, Violin on tracks 2, 3, 5, 7, and 9 and Viola on tracks 1, 4, 6, and 8
The tracks are as follows:
Nilometer at Roda
DNA: Messenger, the Message
Mausoleum of Beybars the Crossbowman
DNA: Binding Sights
Tree of the Virgin at Matariya
To place this work in a genre would be difficult- it is not jazz, it is serious contemporary music composed and performed by two eerily amazing musicians, a unique improvisational language that spans many streams of musical culture, aesthetics, and compositional philosophy. In its intercultural egalitarianism, it could only have been made in America. Travel to the Middle East and listen to the special sounds come alive.
- Grady Harp, amazon.com, December 13, 2013