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Jason Kao Hwang​/​Human Rites Trio

by Jason Kao Hwang

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2 AM 06:06
Defiance 09:44


Each composition is a progression of gestures, songs, movements and locations that bring participants into a state of discovery and compassion. Within these Human Rites, individual voices are empowered to be fully expressive so that each moment is unpredictable and deeply intentional. This psychic intensity, both sacred and sacrificial, provokes a heightened awareness that unifies Listeners and Musicians within a spiritual entrainment. As we hear ourselves within music we become Music, which is no longer a performance but an affirmation of justice and celebration of life.

I wish to thank Andrew Drury and Ken Filiano for their creativity, dedication and friendship.

This CD was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The music honors all the heroic doctors, nurses, and frontline workers who are saving so many lives. The music is also dedicated to the memory of all the people whom we tragically lost to this terrible disease.
-Jason Kao Hwang

Jason Hwang and his longtime bandmates Ken Filiano (bass) and Andrew Drury (drums) could only have made this recording now, after having persevered – individually and collectively – through life’s trials and errors to get to this point of effortless musical mastery, where they can converse freely and eloquently in a language created together over years of collaboration. Certainly, the intimate experience of engaging with this music as a trio for at least a year, testing it in concert after concert, making revisions and discoveries all along the way, has engendered a truly remarkable depth of shared feeling and common understanding among them.

Words Asleep Spoken Awake aptly showcases the way Hwang’s compositions channel his trio’s incredible chemistry, as increasingly syncopated chromatic string lines provide a recurring frame of reference for mutually responsive interplay weaving funk, swing, and free sections together with consistent thematic coherence. Even when playing separately, all three keep resonating together; just listen to the seamless flow among their successive individual solos leading into the stately recapitulating coda. Filiano begins the sequence with an arco statement, densely textured with double-stopped multiphonics echoed and elaborated, in a deft segue, by Drury’s solo on floor tom (which he plays by blowing air through a plumbing fixture onto his sliding-bell-tuned drumhead). Hwang’s solo picks up just where Drury’s leaves off, expanding upon the rough-hewn lyricism, while reintroducing the restless chromatic agitation to be foregrounded immediately thereafter in the final ensemble passage.

It takes three to tango – and shuffle – in Conscious Concave Concrete, whose first part starts out with rhythmically insistent vamps propelling improvisations into the rubato viola solo that serves as a pivot into the powerful blues groove that follows. Throughout, Hwang’s Korean influenced pizzicato viola provides continuity across the two contrasting sections while highlighting cosmopolitan aesthetic affinities.

Such artful transgression of conventional generic boundaries further manifests itself in 2AM, as the off-beat counterpoint of its opening exposition gets distilled down to Filiano’s loping asymmetrical bass line, which evolves from violin-solo accompaniment into an extemporized lead voice in its own right before giving impetus to Drury’s concluding drum solo over string tremolos.

From a certain perspective, Battle for the Indelible Truth – in its progression from raw string-shredding expressionism, through hybrid Afro-Asian ecumenicism, to poignantly direct lyricism – might conceivably bear witness to Hwang’s own aesthetic journey, testifying to his deep roots in the Lower East Side avant-garde scene while offering abundant evidence of the transformative revelations he’s experienced since the loft era.

Last but not least, Defiance finds this trio reaping the rich rewards of sustained musical rapport, so amply demonstrated by the dynamic call and response here between composition and improvisation, with written lines serving as inspirational points of departure for individually conceived, and often contrapuntally interwoven, elaborations of the thematic material at hand.

Over the fifteen years since they recorded their debut together, Hwang’s artistic synergy with Filiano and Drury has gained such depth and profundity with each successive project – from his Edge quartet through his Spontaneous River string orchestra, his Burning Bridge octet, and his Sing House quintet – that it seems a single gesture can now send all three into a sublime state of sympathetic resonance. As we marvel at the collaborative interplay of their individual voices united here once again in common purpose, we can only look forward to many further shared journeys of musical discovery still ahead.
– Scott Currie


released July 1, 2020

Jason Kao Hwang/Human Rites Trio
Jason Kao Hwang – composer, violin (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5), viola (tracks 3, 6)
Andrew Drury – drum set
Ken Filiano – string bass

Recorded August 5 and 6, 2019 at Park West Studios, Brooklyn, NY
Producer/Mix Engineer: Jason Kao Hwang
Recording Engineer: Jim Clouse
Mastering: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions
Mix Consultants: Ken Filiano, Andrew Drury
Design: William Mazza
Liner Notes: Scott Currie
Group and Concert Photos: RI Sutherland-Cohen
Cover Photo: Jason Kao Hwang

Special Thanks: Gennevieve Lam; Patricia and William Parker, Todd Nicholson/Arts for Art; Bobby Hill/Transparent Productions; Layne Garrett, Steve Korn/Rhizome; Deanna Relyea/Edgefest; James Keepnews, Steve Ventura and all the good people at Quinn’s; Stephen Gauci; Bruce Gallanter/Downtown Music Gallery; Stephen Campiglio/Mishi-maya-gat Spoken Word & Music Series; Tony Falco/The Falcon; Randy Thaler, Maurice D. Robertson


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Jason Kao Hwang Morris Plains, New Jersey

The music of Jason Kao Hwang (composer/violin/viola) explores the vibrations and language of his history. His compositions are often narrative landscapes through which sonic beings embark upon extemporaneous, transformational journeys. The Human Rites Trio is his newest CD. In 2019, 2018, 2013 and 2012, the El Intruso Critics voted him #1 for Violin/Viola. ... more

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