Burning Bridge

Burning Bridge

Cross-cultural jazz improvisations by an octet of Chinese and Western instruments
Jason Kao Hwang
Jason Kao Hwang
Taylor Ho Bynum
Joseph Daley
Andrew Drury
Ken Filiano
Sun Li
Steve Swell
Wang Guowei
Catalog Number: 

Jersey City, NJ

Release Date: 
Nov 13, 2012
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

With Burning Bridge, composer/violinist Jason Kao Hwang sets the boundaries of aesthetic sensibilities, cultural assumptions, and his personal history ablaze. His second CD for innova Recordings, Burning Bridge is a meta-language that is both the vehicle and essence of his music and features members of his quartet EDGE (Taylor Ho Bynum, Andrew Drury, and Ken Filiano) with the addition of Joseph Daley, Sun Li, Steve Swell and Wang Guowei.

Hwang burns the bridges between the traditional roles of the ensembles instrumentation—whether jazz, classical, or traditional Chinese—to forge a single musical voice that resonates with distinct cultural overtones. The poetic complexities inherent in this sound means that the music creates a totality, a mingling of all the attributes of a human being. Burning Bridge transcends representation to become experience. The macro conditions set by this jazz composition will cultivate many micro discoveries of sound and phrase. Both differences and commonalities between jazz and traditional Chinese musicians will be embraced. Initially, the novelty of Chinese sounds will appear dominant to the listener: in the plucked unison between the pipa and string bass, the pipa will stand out. But as the listener becomes enveloped in the music, spectacle sensations diminish to a sotto voce, and a democracy of sounds emerge and flourish within a vibrant dialogue. Burning Bridge utilizes the emotional territories produced by the process of notation and improvisation. Each modality possesses an energy that can be either blurred into a single flow or made distinct. The interplay of modalities offers a compositional dynamic between the jazz musician’s personal voice and the over-arching narrative. With bridges afire, the infinite permutations between improvisation and notation, between the individual and collective, are architecturally sequenced to conjure a narrative landscape through which the listener will journey imaginatively. Though the sonic physiology is complex, the actual living music is experienced simply.

In 2009, Mr. Hwang’s mother passed away and his reflections upon her life flowed into the music. The opening motif was based upon her speech patterns for a Chinese proverb she had repeated to him many times during his childhood. Another motif is based upon his memory of a Presbyterian hymn they sang, “Doxology.” He even reached back to his very first band to incorporate a work (“Ocean”) from the early ‘80s into the fifth and concluding movement of Burning Bridge. Burning Bridge, composed upon a Burning Bridge, consumes temporal illusions while enveloping the concurrence of life and death. Here the tinder of history and culture feed flames that vibrate within the core of both instinct and identity. The fire, often ignored, has always existed, with bridges burning each moment of our ever-changing lives.

Jason Kao Hwang (composer, violin/viola) has created works ranging from jazz, “new” and world music. The 2012 Downbeats Critics’ Poll voted him “Rising Star for Violin.” In 2011, Mr. Hwang released Symphony of Souls, performed by his string orchestra Spontaneous River, and Crossroads Unseen, the third CD of his quartet EDGE. EDGE also toured Poland and the critics’ poll of El Intruso voted Mr. Hwang #1 for Violin/Viola. In 2010, All About Jazz/NY selected Commitment, The Complete Recordings, 1981-1983, a collective quartet that was Mr. Hwang’s first band, as one of the “Reissued Recordings of the Year.” In 2008, Coda Magazine named Stories Before Within, released by Innova and the second CD of his quartet EDGE, as one of the Top Ten CDs of the Year. Mr. Hwang has received support from US Artists International, Meet the Composer, the NEA, and others. As violinist, Mr. Hwang has worked with Reggie Workman, Pauline Oliveros, William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Adam Rudolph, Butch Morris and many others.


Have you ever been in an audience and realized you were watching a historic performance? The epic composition performed last night at the Vision Festival by violinist/composer Jason Hwang 's ensemble, "Burning Bridge," was an absolutely unforgettable event and I know I am not alone in feeling that way. The "Burning Bridge" set at Vision will go down in that listening audience's ears as one of the most impacting ensemble performances of a new composition. If you were there, you know what I mean. It seemed many of us sat in transfixed stillness, and then found ourselves dancing in our own seats …. (Vision Festival 2012) – Katie Bull, Facebook

…violinist-composer Jason Kao Hwang, who brought a vast array of sonic wonders to the Freer Gallery on Friday night in his latest genre-straddling work, “Burning Bridge.” …Hwang has his finger firmly on the racing pulse of the 21st century, where everything is interconnected and boundaries of time and geography seem hopelessly quaint. If there’s a war cry for music of the new millennium, it might well be: Burn the bridges – there’s no going back. – Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post

"There is a Charles Ives-ian dimension to Hwang's Burning Bridge. Ives' music was often about memory, associations and artful distortions. In Hwang's composition, an imperfectly remembered hymn from childhood is a personal touchstone; it turns up in several guises. … Hwang has said the way he mediates among his various musical worlds is a mix of conscious and unconscious processes: Some of the music is plotted out and some just floats to the top because of who he is. That natural flow is one of strengths of Burning Bridge; the mixing doesn't feel contrived. To extrapolate a little, this multifaceted music recognizes how we all define ourselves in different ways at different times; our behavior shifts to accommodate coworkers, family, friends or strangers. Which is to say we're all code switchers. Jason Kao Hwang makes us hear what that sounds like." [FULL ARTICLE]
—Kevin Whitehead

"[A] multifaceted and wholly absorbing reflection on [Hwang's] mother's life; the music draws on both Chinese and Western musical styles."
Tom Staudter

“Hwang’s writing is lively and nuanced, and the whole thing works marvelously well.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Francois Couture

"In recent years, avant-garde music has had no more an effective champion than composer/violinist Jason Kao Hwang [and] Burning Bridge extends and broadens Hwang's forward-thinking approach to composition and style. … The outcome on Burning Bridge is a unique form of musical communication that is expansive and ambitious in scope. Burning Bridge is both a transcendent and challenging experience, and with repeated listening the characteristics of each movement can shift in emphasis, and become reinvented." [FULL ARTICLE]
Karl Ackermann

"Hwang stands at the crossroads of his influences—classical, jazz and traditional Chinese music—and sets the divisions between them ablaze. ... The resulting palette is expansive, and Hwang explores its full range."
Shaun Brady

"On Burning Bridge, the veteran experimentalist strips his enterprise down to an octet but reaches for the spheres to profound effect. … [I]t strives not for seamlessness but for illuminating contrasts and juxtapositions. … This music is as deep as it is wide." [FULL ARTICLE]
Lloyd Sachs

"Burning Bridge is an incredibly personal journey that transcends the traditional review by becoming a complete experience for the critic and for the average listener. A truly stunning release of intimate beauty and simplicity." [FULL ARTICLE]
Brent Black