In this first entry of Moment’s Notice, we’ll explore varying approaches to the creative process. There’s Jason Kao Hwang’s Spontaneous River, a string outfit that gets a charge out of throwing out the rules entirely. And there’s Macy Chen, who combines seemingly disparate musical cultures to dazzling results. Finally, Hwang’s EDGE returns with a little bit more structure and a lot more vibration.
Jason Kao Hwang/Spontaneous River – Symphony of Souls
Based out of New York City, Jason Kao Hwang’s Spontaneous River is an outfit comprised of 37 string improvisers and a drummer. Symphony of Souls is a series of unstructured movements, exemplifying the inspired rule-breaking vitality that can only be generated by letting go of convention and letting fly the spirits of sound.
Hwang serves as composer, conductor and violinist on the record, cleverly holding together the movements that sometimes settle into grooves (“Movement 2”) and moody pastures of tension just waiting for sweet, sweet release (“Movement 4”).
Hwang’s journey to Spontaneous River began in 2007 when he and Patricia Parker assembled a string orchestra to put together a memorial tribute for Leroy Jenkins. He received an overwhelming number of interested string musicians and, after a performance conducted by Billy Bang at Vision Festival XII, Hwang decided to put his own compositions before his newly-amassed horde of instrumentalists.
Recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn, New York, Symphony of Souls is more than the nexus of improv and organization; it is a transformed method and a commitment to discharge art from the broad-shouldered boundaries of the page and the chart. It is about communication, energy and sheer passion. And it smokes.
Macy Chen – After 75 Years
Vocalist Macy Chen’s After 75 Years is, to borrow the cliché, a labour of love. For one thing, the recording came in one of the most exhilarating and flat-out awesome presentations I’ve come across. It is a compendium of memories, sent in an elaborate envelope complete with pictures and a true story that spans three generations.
After getting over the packaging, barely, Chen’s voice began to scorch its sexy little way through the speakers. Singing a mesh of jazz and traditional Chinese standards, including six tunes from 1930s-era Shanghai, the sultry singer engages us from the outset with the genre she lovingly calls “jazAsia.”
The point of all of this isn’t just to showcase a great voice or to introduce standards like “Unrequited Love” and “Languishing Dreams.” No, the real meat of After 75 Years is to close the cultural gap by informing us that, yes, there really was a jazz movement in China when America was obsessed with Big Band. And yes, the songs are worth listening to.