|A co-founder of the Asian Improv Records label, jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Jon Jang has helped revitalize the jazz music scene in San Francisco's Bay Area since the late '80s. The L.A.-born musician grew up in Palo Alto, CA and didn't begin learning the piano until he was 19, then studied piano performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he received his degree in 1978. Jang has led groups including a sextet (Two Flowers on a Stem, 1996), an octet (The Immigrant Suite Number 1, 1997) and the Pan Asian Arkestra, which has two albums from the early '90s, including Tiananmen!.
All of the records by these groups came out on the Italian label Soul Note, but Jang has also recorded for the RPM label in the early '80s and his own Asian Improv Records (AIR). AIR was co-founded by Chinese-American Jang and Francis Wong in 1987. In addition to releasing numerous important works by Asian American jazz musicians, the label and its founders are also very active in the Asian American community of the Bay Area. His bands have included such acclaimed musicians as James Newton, David Murray, Max Roach and Chen Jiebing, and have appeared at jazz festivals in North America, Europe and South Africa. He has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Ensemble and the Kronos Quartet. As a composer, Jon Jang has been commissioned by Kronos Quartet, the NEA, Cal Performances, Rockefeller Foundation and more.
He has also composed scores for theater and film, including the 1994 dramatic adaptation of Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior by Deborah Ragin and the late '90s road documentary by Renee Tajima, My America... or Honk If You Love Buddha. Music by Jang has also accompanied the Pearl Ubungen Dancers and performance artists such as Kelvin Han Yee and David Mura. Jon Jang is the recipient of several ASCAP awards and has served on panels for Arts International and the NEA, as artistic advisor for cultural series, and as visiting lecturer at UCal-Irvine and Berkeley. ~ Joslyn Layne, All Music Guide