Giving voice to poetry, and poetry to the voice
Jason Kao Hwang
Deanna Relyea
Piotr Michalowski
Thomas Buckner
Joe McPhee
William Parker
Sang Won Park
Taylor Ho Bynum
Andrew Drury
Ken Filiano
Jason Kao Hwang
Catalog Number: 
solo voice

Jersey City, NJ

Release Date: 
Jan 29, 2016
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

There are voices that speak our thoughts, emotions and needs. They vibrate the air to deliver the contents. We speak and talk. We hear and listen. And there are other kinds of voices that are alive but mostly unheard. Some loud and intense, some soft, almost mute, all saying something that needs to be heard. Although heard by no one yet, they are definitely and clearly there. A poet gives them actual voices using their instrument: words.

For the two ensembles on this CD, violinist/composer Jason Kao Hwang chose poems that had personal resonance. “They felt like my voice speaking words of my own to express essences that I could not bring to consciousness before,” he says. “I also heard music in them. All the poems have an inherent and unique flow of rhythms, textures and colors that would challenge and engage music. Aware of this dynamic, I composed sonic spaces that allowed each poem to fully resonate.”

Into those sonic spaces, Hwang invited musicians and vocalists who -- like poets -- hear unheard music, alive and well, but not yet shared. Throughout each poem’s sonic architecture, vocalists Deanna Relyea and Thomas Buckner were empowered to improvise and make the poems their own.

Now, the voices, once unheard and impossible to reach, are here with us, welcoming us all to listen to them with open arms. Let us listen to them from every corner of our streets, memories and dreams. Here VOICE speaks to us in the most humble, personal and genuine timbres and tones, as we walk together or alone in this landscape called LIFE.

Poetry:  Lester Afflick, Fay Chiang, Steve Dalachinsky,  Patricia Spears Jones, Yuko Otomo, Davida Singer.

Jason Kao Hwang leads numerous ensembles, including his octet of Chinese and Western instruments (Burning Bridge), his quintet Sing House (violin/viola, trombone, piano, string bass, drum set), his trio Amygdala (violin/viola, gayageum, djembe/percussion) and a string orchestra, Spontaneous River. In 2012, National Public Radio selected Burning Bridge as one of the year’s Top CDS and the Downbeat Critics’ Poll voted him “Rising Star for Violin.” As violinist, Mr. Hwang has collaborated with Will Connell, Jr., Pauline Oliveros, William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Yoshiko Chuma and many others.

Mezzo soprano Deanna Relyea has appeared on the concert stage and with symphony orchestras in the Midwest region and throughout Canada. Deanna performs her one-woman cabaret show in many settings, most recently as guest artist at the Niagara-On-The-Lake Chamber Music Festival. She has previously collaborated with Hwang for the premiere performance of his "Lifelines" at John Zorn's venue The Stone in New York City.

For more than 40 years, baritone Thomas Buckner has dedicated himself to the world of new and improvised music. Buckner has collaborated with a host of new music composers and made solo appearances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, presenting a repertoire that includes more than 100 compositions, written for or dedicated to him. Buckner is featured on over 40 recordings, including six solo albums. 


"An innovative force in the music of the present, an important voice in the avant jazz realms of today and a composer who manages to combine jazz and new music elements for a stirring, highly impactful sonics one must hear to appreciate. ... The deft combination of experiential poetry, classically strong vocalists and innovative musical powerhouses operate excellently within the frameworks Jason Kao Hwang has constructed. The end result is a music that gives us full force sound-worlds filled with verbal and musical meaning, of expressions that capture something of life in the world today, of a music alive with a new modern intent born of the streets of experience as well as the great maelstrom of currents in the contemporary music world. ... This album is a landmark in vibrant, truly synthetic conjunctions of words and musical expressions, of the state-of-the-art in the avant today, with the world, history and time conjoined in two unified suites of great power and merit. It is a blockbuster and a tribute to the imaginative thrust of Jason Kao Hwang and his collaborative associates." [FULL ARTICLE]
Greg Edwards

"In taking on a voice-based project, [Hwang]'s accomplished something impressive, not to mention something more memorable for being so rarely attempted. ... Throughout the recording, words and lines flow rhythmically in such a way that they engender a complementary response in the musician, the effect analogous to the way an obbligato by Lester Young follows a vocal line by Billie Holiday." (Album of the Month) [FULL ARTICLE]


"The performing challenges are immense, not only in the extreme virtuosity of the music, but also in having to move from the jagged to the lyrical in the blink of an eye. Jason Kao Hwang yields nothing to previous performers of repertoire such as this in penetrating the depth and breadth of emotion that the poetry conveys, and it helps that this is a fabulous recording, allowing the wide range of tone, colour and dynamics to be heard to full effect." [FULL ARTICLE]
Raul da Gama

"Every so often walking away, tracing an abstract painting from pillar to post, not holding onto any strict principles of jazz, but indeed, this is jazz … the idiosyncratic baritone Thomas Buckner, whose wonderfully mad vocalizing is in turn grotesque, manifesto-like, poetic … Very inspired work for demanding listeners. Skillful developments shows how each process of blending pure poetry can be configured in a truly imaginative analog implementation." [FULL ARTICLE]
Vladimir Horvat

"Relyea shows her wide range of expression in particular on 'Days of Awe' (by Patricia Jones) with a steady mix of spoken and sung lines in various emotional tones. Michalowski’s sopranino sax is also very apt on this piece. The two poems by Lester Afflick have their textual rhythms accentuated by Filiano’s sturdy bass lines and Drury’s sharp drum licks. 'I Raise Myself' has a beautiful intro on bass and 'Someone' has some great growl cornet from Bynum and soulful violin from Hwang. But as I have already indicated, my strongest impression from this record date is how well it works as a whole." [FULL ARTICLE]
Lars Bjorn