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  • Jonathan Widran

JASON KAO HWANG, Human Rites Trio

In my 2018 review of Blood, violin maestro Jason Kao Hwang’s adventurous avant-garde collection spotlighting his octet of Chinese and Western instruments, I referred the curious listener to the illuminating liner notes of Scott Currie for deeper insights into how Hwang used odd metered music and chaotic energies to convey the inner and outer chaos of war.

Currie is thankfully on hand once again to illuminate in precise musical and thematic detail the journey of Human Rites Trio, Hwang’s latest epic expression (with his longtime trio of bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Andrew Drury) of human emotion, awareness and compassion amidst the madness of life. Yet even without the poetic liner note insights, learning that this six track blend of inviting melodic passages, deep rolling grooves, tribal percussion, haunting white noise and cacophonous mind-searing energies was completed during the early days of COVID-19 make it the perfect reflection of the complacency shattering, high anxiety era we’re living here in 2020.

Hwang graciously shares that the music honors all the heroic doctors, nurses and frontline workers who are saving lives – and is also dedicated to those we have tragically lost to the disease. A good example of how Hwang’s music meets the moment is “Words Asleep Spoken Awake, Part 1.” With all its fits, starts, foreboding, rattling percussion and angular notes finally giving way to a freeflowing, structured groove and melody, the track mirrors the crazy onslaught of the pandemic and our attempts to adapt into a crazy new normal that is still quite foreign to us.

The narrative evolves from there, with “Part 2” diving into pure cacophony which turns to haunting elegy (as victims fall), and “Conscious Concave Concrete” offers wide open atmospheric spaces and hypnotic grooves in which to process our emotional response. When he gets to the truly frenetic “Battle for the Indelible Truth” and the similarly discordant “Defiance,” we can see a sociopolitical statement and movement in the making. In the fight for Human “Rites,” we can only hope justice is served and the darkness conquered.


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