Tradition and experimentation need not be oppositional elements in music. Korean altoist Kang Tae Hwan started out playing clarinet in a brass band in elementary school. Conservatory training followed and an embrace of Dixieland and swing. Then a dalliance with the baritone saxophone and the cool jazz of Gerry Mulligan and on to the sea changes of Coltrane and Ornette. The solo music on Live at Café Amores recorded in October of 1995 at the eponymous Tokyo venue run by Chap Chap label producer Takeo Suetomi is a different kettle of Yellowtail still. Evan Parker is an acknowledged antecedent, but the singular and personal aspects of Hwan’s aesthetic are discernable throughout.
Seated cross-legged with horn perched between his ankles, Hwan has the outward appearance of an ascetic in a photograph included in the disc’s booklet. The recital’s five pieces, which add to just south of seventy-minutes of music, are differentiated on paper solely by Roman numerals. Accompanying essays by Suetomi and Kenya Kawaguchi make explicit and repeated mention of respiration and its importance to Hwan’s methodology. This performance also apparently signaled a break with the altoist’s earlier approach where single pieces routinely stretched to a half-hour or longer. Brevity is relative though with three pieces surpassing fifteen minutes apiece.
Timbre and pitch manipulation are other important fundamentals in Hawn’s deliberate and cleanly delineated architectures. In this respect his patterns sometimes resemble those of the taegum in the blurred and buzzing overtones conjured through the bell. Legato shapes also manifest with regularity as Hawn elongates lines in arcing ribbons that hang and then atomize into the air. Register limitations of his instrument feel more afterthought than hindrance and he plumbs both upper and lower regions with unerring confidence to the point that his tightrope excursions in the former successfully mimic the precision and sensitivity of arco string play.
Throughout the performance the audience is uncannily silent and the absence of extraneous or intrusive sounds gives Hwan’s music an even greater meditative cast. Picking out any antecedents in the music is ultimately a fool’s errand, but there’s no doubting that his embrace of numerous forms of improvised music throughout his evolution as a musician yielded the consummate expertise on display here. Coltrane was famous for diligent regimen of practice, consuming many hours of the day in the cause. Hwan seems cut from a comparable cloth in that regard, a player whose vast sum of parts yields the ability to go wherever his muse takes him in the moment.
~ Derek Taylor
Be The First To Review This Product!
Help other Birdland Records users shop smarter by writing reviews for products you have purchased.