Jason Kao Hwang​/​Burning Bridge (2012)

by Jason Kao Hwang

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Jason Kao Hwang - composer/violin
Taylor Ho Bynum - cornet/flugelhorn
Joesph Daley - tuba
Andrew Drury - drum set
Ken Filiano - string bass
Sun Li - pipa
Steve Swell - trombone
Wang Guowei - erhu

All compositions by Jason Kao Hwang, p c Flying Panda Music, BMI, 2011.


Violinist Jason Kao Hwang stands at the crossroads of his influences - classical, jazz and traditional Chinese music - and sets the divisions between them ablaze. DOWNBEAT, Shaun Brady

That natural flow is one of strengths of Burning Bridge; the mixing doesn't feel contrived. To extrapolate a little, this multifaceted music recognizes how we all define ourselves in different ways at different times; our behavior shifts to accommodate coworkers, family, friends or strangers. Which is to say we're all code switchers. Jason Kao Hwang makes us hear what that sounds like.
- National Public Radio, Kevin Whitehead

Hwang has his finger firmly on the racing pulse of the 21st century, where everything interconnected and boundaries of time and geography seem hopelessly quaint. If there is a war cry for music of the new millennium, it might well be: Burn the bridges – there’s no going back. - Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post

Another key feature is the interplay between Chinese and Western instruments. Hwang frequently plays them off against each other... But rather than displaying an opposition or contrast, it's amazing how the two complement each other. This is also true of ensemble passages, where the blend can be invigorating and intoxicating....Hwang's composition, while epic in scope, conveys the intimacy of lives lived in a foreign culture.
- Robert Iannapollo, The New York City Jazz Record


Burning Bridge" sets afire the boundaries of our aesthetic sensibilities, cultural assumptions, instrumental technique and my personal history. "Burning Bridge" is a meta-language that is both the vehicle and essence of this music.

Bridges burn between the various traditions of each instrument - Chinese, Jazz and Classical - to forge a single musical voice resonant with distinct cultural overtones. With the poetic complexities inherent to this sound, this music possesses all the attributes of any human being. "Burning Bridge" is the experience, not the representation.

The macro conditions set by this jazz composition will cultivate many micro discoveries of sound and phrase. Both differences and commonalities between jazz and traditional Chinese musicians will be embraced as bridges burn. At first, the novelty of Chinese sounds will appear graphic, indelible and dominant. For example, when hearing a plucked unison note between the pipa and string bass, the pipa initially dominates. But as the music progresses and bridges burn, spectacle sensations diminish to a sotto voce, and a democracy of sounds emerge and flourish within a vibrant dialogue.

"Burning Bridge" utilizes the distinct emotional territories produced by the process of notation and improvisation. Each modality possesses a distinct energy that can be either blurred into a single flow or made distinct. The interplay of modalities also offers a compositional dynamic between the jazz musician's personal voice and the over-arching narrative. With bridges afire, the infinite permutations between improvisation and notation, the individual and the collective, are architecturally sequenced to conjure a narrative landscape through which the listener will journey and imagine. While though the sonic physiology is complex, the actual living music is experienced simply.

In 2009 my mother passed away and my reflections upon her life flowed into this music. The opening motif was based upon her speech pattern for a Chinese proverb she had repeated to me many times during my childhood. Another motif is based upon the memory of a hymn we sang in the Presbyterian Church. Later, I learned that my recalled rendering was close to the hymn "Doxology." I chose to preserve my remembrance.

My first band was called Commitment, a collective quartet of the jazz loft era, which featured Will Connell Jr. (reeds), Zen Matsuura (drums) and William Parker (string bass). In 2010, "Commitment, the Complete Recordings, 1981- 1983" was released as a double-CD and LP by the Lithuanian label, No Business. This recording includes the 1983 performance of my composition "Ocean" at the Moers Festival in Germany. For the music and the memories residing therein, I incorporated "Ocean" into the fifth and concluding movement of "Burning Bridge."

"Burning Bridge" was composed upon a Burning Bridge. The nature of this music consumes temporal illusions while enveloping the concurrence of life and death. On this "Burning Bridge," the tinder of history and culture feed flames that vibrate within the core of both instinct and identity. The fire, often ignored, has always existed, with bridges burning each moment of our ever-changing lives.
- Jason Kao Hwang


released November 13, 2012

Recorded February 16 - 18, 2011, at Kaleidoscope Sound, Union City, New Jersey
Executive Producer: Philip Blackburn, Innova Recordings
Producer: Jason Kao Hwang
Recording Engineer: Sal Mormando
Assistant Engineer: Kyle Cassel
Mixing Engineer: Jason Kao Hwang with Ken Filiano
Mastering Engineer: Silas Brown, Legacy Sound
Design: Philip Blackburn
Photography: Scott Friedlander, Jason Kao Hwang

Burning Bridge by Jason Kao Hwang has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America’s 2009 New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn - director, design
Chris Campbell - operations manager
SteveMcPherson - publicity

Special Thanks: Gennevieve Lam, Dick Griffin, Chris DiMeglio, Jeanette Vuocolo (Chamber Music America), Deanna Relyea (Edgefest), Tom Kohn (Bop Shop), Michael Orlove (Chicago World Music Festival), Mitch Cocanig (Hideout), Michael Wilpers (Freer Gallery), Patricia Parker (Vision Festival), Jim Staley (Roulette), Heidi and Hy Fenster



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Jason Kao Hwang Morris Plains, New Jersey

Jason Kao Hwang (composer/violin/viola) recently released Sing House and VOICE. In 2012, NPR selected Burning Bridge as one of the year’s Top CDS and the Downbeat Critics’ Poll voted him “Rising Star for Violin.” In 2011 and 2012 the El Intruso Critic's poll voted him #1 for Violin/Viola. Mr. Hwang has worked with Pauline Oliveros, Wadada Leo Smith, William Parker, Anthony Braxton, and others. ... more

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