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Helen Sung at Jazz @ Jack's, Denver, CO

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Helen Sung Jazz @ Jack's 2014 Craft Brewers Conference Denver, CO April 9, 2014 Astaire and Rogers; Bogart and Bacall; Sponge Bob and Patrick... The entertainment world is full of classic pairings. Wednesday night's classic pairing was jazz and craft beer. Dropped in the middle of the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in jny: Denver, pianist Helen Sung, affiliated with North Coast Brewing Company, put together a virtuoso quintet to match the virtuoso beer on tap. A graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, Sung naturally plays some of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: Anthem For A New Day

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There's a bit of the iconoclast in pianist Helen Sung. Her musical journey began in the classical world, and didn't take its rebellious tangent into jazz until her college years, after a chance encounter with a Harry Connick, Jr. concert, in a “bang on the piano" solo interlude. And then there was pianist Tommy Flanagan's solo on saxophonist Charlie Parker “Confirmation," and Sung was jazz bitten, in the best way. Anthem for a New Day, Sung's sixth album--her first on Concord Records--represents a full blossoming of Sung's talents--as a pianist, band leader, arranger and writer. Not ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: (re)Conception

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Pianist Helen Sung has got the swing thing down. A graduate of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, Sung has put out a series of increasingly distinctive CDs, from her ear-grabbing debut, Push (Blue Moon, 2004), to the classical leaning Sungbird (After Albeniz) (Sunnyside, 2007), through to 2010's quintet outing, Going Express (Sunnyside), with a trio stop for the outstanding Helenistque (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006).A classically-trained pianist who didn't discover jazz until her college years, Sung's conversion to improvisation and swing must certainly have required enormous drive and effort, but it has ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Helen Sung: San Diego, CA, September 15, 2011

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Helen SungDizzy'sSan Diego Wine and Culinary Arts CenterSan Diego, CASeptember 15, 2011 From post World War II through the 1970s, what is now called San Diego's “Gaslamp Quarter," centered on 5th Avenue in the in the city's downtown, was a neon-lit area of beer bars dives, pornographic theaters, massage parlors, unseemly strip clubs and a variety of greasy spoons catering to the town's young sailors. San Diego was, and is, a Navy town. But in the early 1980s, the interest in refashioning and sprucing up the area blossomed into action. An unseemly blight ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: Going Express

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Whether an artist is performing in a play or playing music, doing so live onstage is one of the most challenging acts. Every nuance is captured by an eager audience and, in the case of Going Express, a sensitive sound engineer. There is no room for error; every slip can be fatal. Pianist Helen Sung makes short work of these concerns, however, navigating the music in spritely fashion and with the delicate touch of slender fingers like feathers on the weighted keyboard. Going Express is a dramatic turnout, and features a fine ensemble that includes bassist Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Eric ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Helen Sung at Dizzy's San Diego

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Helen SungDizzy's San DiegoSeptember 23, 2010 Helen Sung came to jazz relatively late, during her classical music studies at University of Texas at Austin. After listening to Houston-bred and now New York-based pianist Helen Sung perform at Dizzy's in San Diego, it's hard to imagine her as a classical player, where precision and perfection of technique and adherence to the traditions sit up much more front and center than they do in jazz.Sung and her quartet, touring in support of the pianist's Going Express (Sunnyside Records, 2010), swung hard and well, explored freedom ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: Sungbird (After Albeniz)

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Pianist/composer Helen Sung could have played it safe. After offering up two fine straight ahead jazz outings-- Push (Blue Moon, 2004) and Helenistique, (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006), the expectation was “more of the same." And that would not have been a disappointment. Though the New York based artist came to jazz late--during her college years, after early studies in classical music--she came out swinging sweet and lovely on those first two discs.With Sungbird (After Albeniz), the artist takes off on a different tangent, returning, to an extent, to her classical roots. Sung performs Spanish pianist/composer Isaac Albeniz' ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: Helenistique

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The title Helenistique, a pun on the leader's name, calls to mind (also punningly) things Greek. The reference puzzled me at first, but it seems to now refer to this sterling young pianist's ability to sculpt intelligent and vital improvisations. She is a confident, technically brilliant keyboard artist who uses a fertile imagination to create new lines and shapes from her raw materials. Thus these “standards," played by countless pianists and other jazz players, take on different colors and textures and tell new stories in her hands. She and her cohorts--bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Lewis Nash--take ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: Helenistique

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New York-based pianist Helen Sung's debut as a leader, Push (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2003), featured mostly original tunes. For her sophomore effort, Sung has chosen some jazz standards, a Prince tune, and one from her own pen, “H*Town," an homage to her hometown of Houston, Texas.In covering jazz standards, one measure of success is how well the artist makes them his or her own. In this very engaging and successful piano trio effort, Sung does just that, breathing life into Rodgers & Hart's “Lover," one of Thelonous Monk's favorites, “Sweet and Lovely," Joe Henderson's classic “Black Narcissus," ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung Trio: Helenistique

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The clean, uncluttered sound of the piano trio gets a refreshing workout on Helenistique, Helen Sung's tribute to the jazz standard. For her second recording, Sung works with drummer Lewis Nash and bassist Derrick Hodge.A classically trained pianist, Sung leads her trio well: she solos with authority, intelligence and grit, especially on Rodgers and Hart's “Lover" and above the stuttering rhythms of Thelonious Monk's “Bye Ya," but she knows when to retreat and let Nash and Hodge sparkle. Hodge has played with hip-hop stars like Mos Def and Q-Tip, as well as a host of jazz luminaries, among ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Helen Sung: Push

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It's always a good sign when the opening cut has you snapping your fingers about fifteen seconds in. Push is pianist Helen Sung's debut effort. The song that elicited the fingersnaps is “Conundrum," a swinger that features some clean-lined tenor sax work by Marcus Strickland. It hits a groove early, and a couple of minutes in Sung sparkles into an effervescent solo. The pianist--who semi-finaled in the 1999 Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition--exhibits some sharp angularities again when the sax blows back in. “Vivacity" is the word that keeps coming to mind as I listen ...



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