STORIES BEFORE WITHIN

Innova 689

JASON KAO HWANG/ EDGE

Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet

Andrew Drury – drum set

Ken Filiano – string bass

Jason Kao Hwang – composer, violin, viola*

 

1)   Cloud Call (10:33)

2)   From East Sixth Street (6:57)

3)   Walking Pictures* (10:22)

4)   Third Sight (9:16)

5)   Embers (14:04)

 

Total Program Length = 51:21

 

Recorded on April 5th & 6th, 2007 at the Studio, NewYork City, New York

 

Recorded on April 5th & 6th, 2007 at the Studio, NewYork City, New York

Executive Producer: Philip Blackburn, Innova Records

Producer: Jason Kao Hwang

Recording Engineer: Jon Rosenberg

Assistant Recording Engineer: Eije Takasuga

Mixing Engineer: Jason Kao Hwang

Mastering Engineer: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions, Inc.

Liner Notes:  EdHazell

Design:  PhilipBlackburn

Cover photography: Jason Kao Hwang

Photograph of the band:  Jon Rosenberg

 

STORIES BEFORE WITHIN

 

All Compositions by Jason Kao Hwang. © 2007 Flying PandaMusic, BMI

 

As he prepared this new release by Edge, violinist-composerJason Kao Hwang was thinking about storytelling. In fact, the album’s titlealludes to two directions in which stories move—forward through time andinward psychologically. Both aspects of storytelling are most important toJason’s music. “Every musician has a certain essence, it’s the animating forcein their sound,” he says. “We experience that essence as a vertical phenomenon,it’s timeless and it’s deep. Music, on the other hand, is linear; we experienceit horizontally, in time. The compositions on Stories Before Within are narratives that progress forward in time with anawareness of what has come before. They also journey within, through theinfinite dimensions of emotion.”

 

Jason’s compositions create plots as they move from onetheme or section to another. They form a kind of temporal architecture, storieswhich shape and order experience. “What is on paper is a crystallization ofwhat the music has to say,” Jason says. “The composed notes which determinerhythmic and harmonic relationships create chapters of a story by setting updifferent fields of vibration.”

 

Jason’s compositions set up their chapters, their differentvibrational fields, with uncommon elegance. There’s a sureness of design, aninner logic that makes each new event seem inevitable, yet also to some degreesurprising. “Third Sight,” for instance, opens with a folksong like melody thatbears a close spiritual kinship to the blues, then jump cuts into a swingingmid-tempo episode in which Jason and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum duet. Thisconversational interlude delivers us into soliloquies, first for bassist KenFiliano, then for drummer Andrew Drury, before the reprise of the second andfirst themes. It’s a neat story arc that showcases the entire cast ofcharacters in the band. The lovely melody of “Embers” runs through the entireperformance of the piece, while the soloists spin their own variants of thiscentral narrative. Contrasting thematic elements are nicely balanced in “CloudCall,” for which Jason plays lead, supported by lines and riffs that he scoredfor the rest of the band. “It was written in my youth, when I lacked the skillsto develop it,” Jason says. “I re-worked the original composition and broughtit to Edge to fulfill its initial promise.”

 

The predetermined elements of the composition also functionto launch improvisational development. “The composition draws the improviserforward into a place in which they reveal their essence,” Jason elaborates. “Wehear each individual musician spontaneously respond to the vibration field thatilluminates what the heart searches for. Improvisation discovers and revealsanother universe.”

 

The musicians in Edge are well attuned to the settings Jasonprepares for them. After three years together, Jason says they’ve all becomecloser friends, and this closeness is reflected in the music. They are not onlya band of friends, but a band of vivid personalities as well. Each member is adauntless searcher and engaging storyteller in their own right. Bynum’sirrepressible spirit enlivens the album with playful explorations of sounds,textures, and rhythms. Filiano can play his bass as if it were an entire stringorchestra or pluck spare lines that mesh with both soloists and ensemblepassages. Drury orchestrates sounds, silence, color, and rhythm to functionwithin the ensembles as either an equal participant or as timekeeper.

 

Jason himself has one of the music’s most immediatelyrecognizable voices, a synthesis of Chinese influences, elements ofcontemporary classical and avant-garde jazz that has no precedent in this kind of music.Every note he plays is a cry from the heart, full of longing and compassion,and guided by a keen intellect. He is a storyteller of tremendous power.

Ed Hazell