Jason Kao Hwang Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jason Kao Hwang Trio 

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Chinese-American violinist Jason Kao Hwang has carved out an enviable niche for himself in the new-music scene: a veteran of groups and recordings led by luminaries like Henry Threadgill, Butch Morris, Joe McPhee, and Myra Melford, he's come to symbolize musical marriages of East and West. In this trio with Bay Area saxist Francis Wong and local bassist Tatsu Aoki, as on previous recordings with his Far East Side Band, Hwang draws on traditions from China, Japan, and Korea, transforming his inspiration into something only partly Asian--and sometimes only partly terrestrial. The music on his new Graphic Evidence (Asian Improv) is as spare, unfamiliar, and arrestingly beautiful as a lunar landscape; indeed, many of the effects that Hwang extracts from the violin have the eerie lyricism of a good sci-fi sound track. Sometimes he abandons arioso soloing to screech out counterlines to Wong's soprano sax melodies; sometimes he creates scratch-and-scrape percussion to complement Aoki's rhythmic underpinnings on bass. But while his techniques are eclectic, Hwang's music remains thrifty, even elliptical. Each member of this trio has strong local connections--Hwang is the second-most famous violinist to grow up in Waukegan, after Jack Benny--so it makes sense that they would meet here for this CD-release show, part of the tenth annual Asian American Jazz Festival. The group will be joined on several pieces by local musician Hyun Chung Kim on daegum (Korean transverse flute). Sat 10/8, 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. Aall ages.


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