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November 2000

Jon Jang
Self Portrait
AIR

Jon Jang plays what used to be dismissively called arranger piano. He's a leading composer and bandleader in the S.F. Bay area who has often explored Chinese and Asian-American musical themes. While his previous recordings raised tough questions about issues of social justice, this particular solo outing is more contemplative and spiritual. Jang is not a virtuoso player. Though his ideas are always evident, his dynamic range is narrow, his touch is not exactly subtle and he favors cliched trills and tremolos, sometimes to distraction. Jang generates some energy on "The Procession/Woman Shaman of Alishan," and his version of Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" goes into some unexpected, if tentative, directions. Still, I can't wait to hear some of the originals fleshed out by a larger group.

Originally published in November 2000
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