Fifteen years ago, two local jazz musicians were having trouble getting their music produced. Francis Wong and Jon Jang soon discovered they were not alone; many local Asian-American artists were marginalized by the recording industry for creating music that defied easy cultural categorization. So Wong and Jang created their own label, Asian Improv Records, which featured both contemporary Asian-American tunes and traditional Asian music. The company became so successful that its founders expanded it to include a wide range of multidisciplinary art forms created within a multiracial pool of artists.
Now called Asian Improv aRts (AIR), this groundbreaking nonprofit organization celebrates its 15th anniversary with an extravaganza of music and dance by local artists. The event consists of two nights, the first of which -- titled "Forces in Motion" -- features the Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble, Facing East Dance & Music, and Red Jade (a performance ensemble that incorporates influences from both Asian and Latino cultures). The main attraction, "Wong Works," happens on the second night and stars Wong himself, along with a carefully selected band of acclaimed jazz musicians, including AIR co-founder Jang. The weekend-long celebration culminates with "It's Swing Time!," a dance party where you can shake your thang to the tunes of Chicago-based blues diva Yoko Noge and the Triangle Sister Cities Band.
"It's Swing Time!" starts Saturday at 10 p.m.
Admission to each is $15
Reserved tables are available Saturday for "Wong Works" ($17-20)
With such an impressive range of Asian-American talent joining forces, the party should be an affair to remember -- and one that proves the best way to make a change is to do it yourself.