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Far East Side Band

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FAR EAST SIDE BAND

At one time, hybrids of jazz and Asian music consisted only of "Oriental" flourishes, used by jazzers to exoticize their compositions. But over the last decade an active group of Asian-Americans, including Fred Ho, Jon Jang, Glenn Horiuchi, and Jason Kao Hwang, has sparked an explosion of activity, exploring the indigenous musics of Asia through the expressive vehicle of jazz arrangement and improvisation. Hwang, a second-generation Chinese-American born and raised in Waukegan, leads the Far East Side Band--the name plays on both the group's New York base and the distant ancestry of all but one of the members. Formed in 1992 as a trio, the ensemble situates Hwang's violin alongside the pan-Asian battery of Japanese-born percussionist Yukio Tsuji and the Korean instruments of Sang-Won Park. Park plays kayagum, a kotolike 12-string plucked zither, and ajang, a 7-string zither bowed with a rosined wooden stick to produce almost vocal sounds. He's a rare bird, both a bona fide master of Korean traditional music and a free spirit interested in spontaneous improvisation. The group's first record, Caverns (New World), established a working method: lengthy, sectional compositions by Hwang feature a spectrum of Asian timbres, textures, modes, and other materials in unison charts and extended solo and ensemble improvisations. Tuba player Joe Daley (not the Chicago reedist) gives the second record, Urban Archeology (Victo), a richer bottom end to balance the bright sonorities of Tsuji's splashy gongs and cymbals and delicate shakuhachi and Hwang's electric violin--the whiny tone of which is not my favorite aspect of the leader's fiddling. This performance, the band's Chicago debut, is part of the Asian American Jazz Festival. Sunday, 5 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. John Corbett

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jason Kao Hwang photo/ uncredited.

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