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Jason Kao Hwang: Burning Bridge

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With his 2011 album, Symphony of Souls, violinist and composer Jason Kao Hwang attained an intense singularity of expression by leading an orchestra of 37 string players plus drummer through 11 gripping movements. On Burning Bridge, the veteran experimentalist strips his enterprise down to an octet but reaches for the spheres to equally profound effect. The five-part work combines, sometimes strikingly, elements of jazz and classical and traditional Chinese music. In doing so, though, it strives not for seamlessness but for illuminating contrasts and juxtapositions.

The octet consists of members of Hwang’s Edge quartet-cornetist/flugelhornist Taylor Ho Bynum, perennially underrated bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Andrew Drury-plus Steve Swell on trombone, Joseph Daley on tuba, Su Li on four stringed pipa and Wang Guowei on two-stringed erhu. Burning Bridge is informed by the Hwang family’s migration to the Chicago suburbs following World War II. But it’s a decidedly nonlinear piece, revealing itself through a painterly free association, and it’s less about East meets West than about the universality of thought and feeling.

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