Jason Kao Hwang​/​EDGE, Crossroads Unseen (2011)

by Jason Kao Hwang

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Jason Kao Hwang/ EDGE
Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet (3, 4, 5)), flugelhorn (1, 2)
Andrew Drury – drum set
Ken Filiano – string bass
Jason Kao Hwang – composer, violin (1, 2, 3), viola (4, 5)

This is the last of the three EDGE CDs released.

EDGE (AsianImprov, 2006)
Stories Before Within (Innova, 2007)
Crossroads Unseen (Euonymus, 2011)


Although Hwang's writing for Edge is demanding and dynamic, full of challenging intervallic leaps and carefully timed pauses, what most stands out is the way they play together.
- Bill Meyer, Downbeat Magazine, January 2012 Read Full Review

They are now three albums old and one of the most creative and unique bands operating in improvised music today.
- Robert Iannapollo, The NYC Jazz Record, November, 2011

At times mesmeric, introspective or aggressive, the musical vistas breed lucid imagery from an abundance of ebbs, flows and disparate angles. It's music for the mind, boosted by a highly sustainable form of entertainment.
- Glen Astarita, Jazz Review, November 1, 2011

…full of Asian colors without being ethnic - a subtly asian-tinged use of space, sensitive as far as harmonic and melodic architectures and interplay, Hwang and his fellows are responsible for a music beautifully cooked up, revitalizing a tradition of free improvisation in showing us the single improvisers shifting their dialogues with fluency and sharpness, cinematic devices and a title track worthy of being listed in a forthcoming best of 2011.
- Gianpaolo Galasi, London Resonance, November 1, 2011


Edge: sharpness. keenness. from the middle. to have the advantage. to make one’s way (along the path around the house to crossroads unseen,) to gradually move. with the edge foremost > edgeways >

effuse (to pour out) effulgence (radiance / brilliance) >
with an almost unrestrained expression > scale of values > tone > zones corresponding to divisions > sequences > differences > steps that are challenging yet reassuring >

or as Hwang explains: “Each composition is a language of vibrations that accrues into the energy and mass of an emotive landscape. Improvisations cross this primal land confronting life and death rhythmically, as sounds are born and pass away unceasing. Throughout these life cycles, individual vibrations tune into the whole sound of the land. The quest is towards full resonance, a journey that is purifying and transformative.”

This, Edge’s third recorded effort (the band having formed in 2005) continues the tradition violinist, composer, leader Jason Kao Hwang started with the release of EDGE (Asian Improv) in 2006 shortly followed by Stories Before Within (Innova) 2007. Hwang says of his companions on this journey, drummer Andrew Drury, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum and bassist Ken Filiano that “since they are all composers themselves they understand how to cultivate their voices in the language of my scores and that our years together have developed our collective imaginations to take the music where it must spontaneously go.” He goes on to say, recognizing the importance of such relationships that, “Notated music, as a geographic terrain can shape the vibrations of each musician into a unified path” and that “the improvisations then flow deeper into a singular core of purpose.” What is interesting in this is that the cd itself, as its titles and compositions indicate, is all about paths, movement, ideas meeting each other and individuals searching for and finding unity and clarity in both music and life.

The fierce & determined opening track aptly called Elemental Determination brings us without hesitation right into the whirlwind world of Hwang’s musical mind or as he puts it “Elemental Determination is the inner force that compels music to move forward and survive.” And I would add: a force that immediately leads us into this numinous world we are going to encounter track after track > a world where we can see clearly to and beyond the edge. A world where every solo, every edgy, abrupt start and stop leads us to the precipice and leaves us tottering > always moving toward and away > always inviting us in while saying HA fooled you this is a music of outwardness that ironically leads toward a CENTER … The Path Around the House which Hwang states “evokes an autobiographical landscape, full of twists and turns from both memories and projections” should by all rights be a secure familiar voyage but is, instead, tremulous at times and fraught with a kind of scary Lugosi-esque feeling imbued with sudden flashes of tenderness and familiarity while just as suddenly bringing us to the brink as we stumble through the kitchen or slip on the living room carpet or quickly freeze up as that carpet magically lifts us upward for a moment making us feel elated yet almost as if we are trespassing in our own terrain, trumpet and violin moaning, arguing over which is the right turn to take back to the easy chair. But this music is not that way. There is no easy chair or easy way out for that matter. With each step we are (mis)guided from this path like the Transients we all are toward Crossroads Unseen.

Transients itself proves to be a twisted ballad and as Hwang puts it “a fleeting gesture, delicately opened to explore fields of history seen anew, and the future as past.” And I feel it is, through Jason’s eyes, voice and the voices of the other members of the band, a doorway out of the past. Out of history which itself is so unreliable, unstable and transitional. And as one feels Hwang’s bow, fingers, breath upon his violin we feel a lilting, fragile assurance that if we have nothing else to hold on to there is now, the very tenuous, oops-there- it-goes-and-gone bluesy present. Just listen to that heart-rending Bynum solo, it tells all. Then Hwang’s seductive come-hither as Filiano and Drury walk us through this NOW like an embracing burlesque. Sing. Beat time. Dive into those exotic multiples at the track’s end.

Then stand at Crossroads Unseen which Hwang tells us “resonates the existence of unforeseen moments that shape lives profoundly” and shiver with the strings. Cower at the trumpet’s eerie bellow. Marvel at the beauty and softness that the aftermath of a storm can bring. That only imagination alone can provide. That hopefully as the disillusioned dreamer stands at them, travels them, he/she will take the one “less traveled” but more diverse, trouble free yet expansive, creative and exciting. Like the timbre of the cymbals and the heart of possibility, knowledge and experience.

As the cd comes to a close let us hope that one day humanity can do what Jason claims the final track One Day is meant to do, “unleash layers of energy….woven resolutely to inspire courage and hope.” Stand with me at the EDGE then take the plunge into the SOUL of a great spirit, artist and activist, the warm, wonderful, visualizer, Jason Kao Hwang.
- steve dalachinsky nyc july 2011

Escaping the war, my father came to America from China on a Boxer Rebellion scholarship in 1945. My mother arrived in 1948. I often think of how far they traveled culturally, and of what they wanted and got during their time on earth. Those feelings are in my music. I grew up in the era of America’s “melting pot” orthodoxy, so my parents taught me English only, reserving Chinese to speak with each other. I listened to their Chinese deeply; attempting to glean whatever meaning I could from the inflection, rhythm, and tone of their sounds. This was a formative musical experience that somehow guides my instincts as composer and violinist.
- Jason Kao Hwang, July, 2011


released October 1, 2011

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

Recorded on June 13 and 14, 2010 at Kaleidoscope Sound in Union, New Jersey.

Recording Engineer: Sal Mormando
Assistant Engineer: Karli Maloney
Mixing Engineer: Jason Kao Hwang with Andrew Drury and Ken Filiano
Mastering Engineer: Paul Zinman (SoundByte Productions)
Liner Notes: Steve Dalachinsky
Cover Photography: Jason Kao Hwang

Special Thanks: Gennevieve Lam, Nate Wooley, Kirk Knuffke

All compositions by Jason Kao Hwang, (circle C) (circle P) Flying Panda Music, BMI, 2011



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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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