Stories Before Within

Jason Kao Hwang/EDGE

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Stories Before Within Review

by Michael G. Nastos

The music of violinist Jason Kao Hwang and the quartet EDGE on their second CD is so intangibly inviting and elusive that to describe it with mere words might be folly. Empowered by a balanced combination of composition, improvisation, and telepathy, not to mention an infinite amount of elements, this recording must be heard in its own context and stance. First off, the personnel of bassist Ken Filiano, drummer Andrew Drury and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum are truly outstanding individuals who wholly come together under Hwang's spellbinding storytelling concept. Highly developed chapters, volumes, and theses tumble out with no seeming end. Each of the five tracks hold great intrigue, starting with the mercurial "Cloud Call," with Hwang's sonic violin and Drury's lithe drumming setting the tone. It's truly a tour de force epic, involved and interactive, then dour and introspective, connected in its deconstruct; animated and direct in a 6/8 passage with constant freedom changes as the key. The 14-minute "Embers" smolders coolly under Filiano's flowing bowing and Drury's inventive cymbal techniques, with startling spatial harmonics, romantic balladic hints, intersecting lines crossing unabated, and echoes of pure emotion ending in melancholy. "Walking Pictures" is the third lengthy discourse, with Hwang on the viola in a bluesy, Leroy Jenkins inspired mood, dramatic and brittle, ready to burst with tension and release devices, but no dynamic constraints. There's freedom in the groove of "From East Sixth Street," with conversational themes and dialogue in many languages of interrelated spheres of thought and dark passages. The most unique track may be "Third Sight," a life cycle piece, starting as an Asian waltz, tuneful and hip, lighthearted and infused with a country-style motif driven to hard paced solos especially by Hwang and the always wonderful Bynum, fitting beautifully as if sexual before resting, dreaming, waking, and then returning to the quick-paced rat race. This in many ways is a remarkable statement of modern 21st century music, done by a group that you need to hear in live performance, after you've purchased this incredible recording.

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