|Violinist Jason Kao Hwang has sought to meld American jazz and blues with motifs from the Far East for years, most notably on his excellent 1990 release Unfolding Stone (Sound Aspects). Now, with a group all of Asian descent, Hwang has entered a more fully Asiatic idiom, leaving the particularly American vocabularies behind for something more universal.
The trio is comprised of Western instruments—Francis Wong plays soprano saxophone and Tatsu Aoki upright bass—but it's also supplemented by the talented Wu Man on pipa, a Chinese stringed instrument that's similar to a lute. Without a percussionist, the group yields a graceful, delicate sound that surprises at times with quiet suggestions and phantom voices. Wong in particular plays so slowly and softly that he dissolves into the group, giving the feeling of an ethereal string ensemble.
At times these musicians break out of the evocative mist, as on the bluesy “Blood Falling Out-of-Bounds,” anchored by a simple, metric riff by Aoki, who has worked extensively with Chicago’s AACM in recent years. But when these players are at their best, they float past, as if they didn’t know anyone was listening.