Join Asian Improv aRts (AIR) co-founders Jon Jang (piano) and Francis Wong (saxophone) for an evening of live jazz and reflection on 30 years of music and activism.
Combining radical politics, community organizing, and virtuosic musicianship, AIR has given form to cultural progression through three decades of creative music. They approach improvisation as a methodology of resistance. This is evident from their early recordings, like The Ballad or the Bullet, to current projects like Jang’s Can’t Stop Cryin’ for America: Black Lives Matter! AIR’s influence has also extended into multidisciplinary performing arts, and to the many younger artists they’ve mentored, such as Vijay Iyer and Jen Shyu.
AIR enters its fourth decade as one of the jewels of the Bay Area’s new music scene — join us in honoring AIR’s achievements at this special event, the proceeds of which will benefit the Center for New Music.
About Asian Improv aRts
Founded in 1987, Asian Improv aRts’ (AIR) mission is to produce, present and document artistic works that represent the Asian American experience. Asian Improv aRts goals: 1) To make it possible for artists to create innovative works that are rooted in the diasporic experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. 2) To engage a next generation of community members in the arts through arts education. 3) To enable sustainability for artists and arts organizations in a challenging economic environment. 4) To facilitate creative collaborations that bring together major institutions, artists, and multigenerational audiences and participants.
Jon Jang, piano
Composer Jon Jang became the first American born Chinese to compose a symphonic work that honors Chinese American history. For three decades, composer and pianist Jon Jang gives a musical voice to a history that has been silent. A majority of his works represents a chronology of Chinese American history in San Francisco. Commissioned by the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra and Oakland East Bay Symphony, Jon Jang composed The Chinese American Symphony (2007) which pays tribute to the Chinese laborers who built the first transcontinental railroad in United States.
Other works include: Oyama Canon in D (2013); Portrait of Sun Yat-sen (2011), When Sorrow Turns to Joy – Songlines: The Spiritual Tributary of Paul Robeson and Mei Lanfang (2000), Reparations Now! Concerto for Jazz Ensemble and Taiko (1988), Island: the Immigrant Suite No. 2 (1995) for the Kronos Quartet and Cantonese Opera singer and the score for the dramatic adaptation of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1994) commissioned by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre in Boston and Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles (Mark Taper).
Pianist/composer Jon Jang has recorded with Max Roach, James Newton and David Murray. His ensembles have toured at major concert halls and music festivals in Europe, China, Canada, United States and South Africa, four months after the election in April 1994 to end apartheid. During 1999-2001, Jang toured with Max Roach as part of the Beijing Trio at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Zurich, Berlin, Milan and the Royal Festival Hall in London. Jon Jang was selected as one of the small group of composers along with Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and others to have works performed at the first Other Minds Festival in San Francisco and be in residency at Djerassi Resident program in 1993. In May 2013, Jang performed at The White House Forum on Asian American Pacific Islander Issues in Washington DC hosted by the US Department of the Interior and The White House.
New York Times described Jon Jang’s music: “Like the ‘’Third Stream’’ composers of the 50’s who married jazz and classical music, Jang honors his two idioms without fully merging them. “Among Jang’s awards: History-Makers Award from the Chinese Historical Society of America; Mid-Career Visionary Artist Award from the Ford Foundation and the first Conservatory alum to receive the Distinguished Achievement Award from Oberlin College
As a scholar, Jang has taught at Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley and UC Irvine. In 2012, Jon Jang was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr.-Cesar Chavez-Rosa Parks Visiting Professor recognition at the University of Michigan. In London in 1997, Jang was one of four artists selected by the British Embassy in Washington DC to participate in Reinventing Britain, a conference of prominent international scholars featuring Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy and Homi Bhabba as speakers…
Francis Wong, saxophone
Few musicians are as accomplished as Francis Wong, considered one of “the great saxophonists of his generation” by the late jazz critic Phil Elwood. A prolific recording artist, Wong is featured on more than forty titles as a leader and sideman. For over two decades he has performed his innovative brand of jazz and creative music for audiences in North America, Asia, and Europe with such with such luminaries as Jon Jang, Tatsu Aoki, Genny Lim,William Roper, Bobby Bradford, John Tchicai, James Newton, Joseph Jarman, Don Moye and the late Glenn Horiuchi.
But to simply call the Bay Area native a musician would be to ignore his pioneering leadership in communities throughout Northern California. Wong’s imaginative career straddles roles as varied as performing artist, youth mentor, composer, artistic director, community activist, non-profit organization manager, consultant, music producer, and academic lecturer. Key vehicles for his work are Asian Improv aRts, the company he co-founded with Jon Jang and as a Senior Fellow at the Wildflowers Institute. In addition, Wong was a California Arts Council Artist in Residence from 1992 through 1998, and a Meet The Composer New Resident in 2000-2003. In 2000-2001 he was a Rockefeller Next Generation Leadership Fellow. He has also been a guest member of the faculty at San Francisco State University (1996-98) and at University of California at Santa Cruz (1996-2001).
”I choose for my work to build community and to seek out how I, as an artist can meet the challenges that our community faces. In the Asian American community, the biggest challenge is continuity of culture and the impact of assimilation. Through music, I envision a way to create continuity through the integration of tradition and innovation.”