Helen Sung
Jazz Pianist/Composer



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Helen Sung at Dizzy's San Diego September 23, 2010
Published: September 27, 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 imaging 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 and abandon and surprise and an unfettered joy that seemed to surge off the leader in waves and wash over a rapt and attentive audience.

Opening with one of Chick Corea's "Children's Songs," Sung and her band mates churned into a turbulent, John Coltrane-like (Impulse! Records era) momentum, full of furious abstraction. Sung's California touring band, with Hamilton Price on bass, Bob Reynolds on soprano and tenor saxophones, along with drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, give the tune dark hues of the soundtrack to a children's tale full of ominous atmospherics, full of trolls and dangerous deep-shade forests.

From there the group segued into the title tune for Sung's Going Express. The Sung original is frenetic and full speed ahead, and it evolved into a maelstrom on the power of Smith's explosive drumming, with Sung matching her drummer's energy level--no small fete.

Sung took things into a gentler realm with the American Songbook standard, "Never Let me Go," with a delicate, lilting piano approach, showcasing her ability to take a familiar ballad and treat it respect while imbuing it with her own personality.

Sung is a superb interpreter of Thelonious Monk. She closed her debut release, Push (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2004) with the Monk's "Ugly Beauty," and included "Bya Ya" on her marvelous Helenistique (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006), as well as covering--on that same set--one of Monk's favorite vehicles, "Sweet and Lovely." At the San Diego show she offered up an inspired, crowd-pleasing takes, in medley, of Monk's "In Walked Bud," "Eronel" and "Bye Ya," that had the band, and the audience, locked in to a collective adventure of Sung's exuberant and on-edge exploration of the legendary pianist/composer's tunes.

A highlight in a consistently exciting show was the tune "Bitter," written by the boundary-pushing bassist/composer/performer Meshell Ndegeocello. Bob Reynolds introduced the tune with a Ben Webster woosh on his tenor saxophone, before lending the gentle and introspective, and gorgeous, melody a haunting feeling in front of the deft sparkle of Sung's embellishments.

An artist in the throes of spontaneous creation certainly experiences a sense of joy and wonder. That was obviously the case with Helen Sung this night in San Diego, and it was contagious. In a city not known for its support or enthusiasm for jazz, the near-full house audience was attentive, and genuinely enthusiastic between tunes, rewarding the pianist and her band a heartfelt and extended standing ovation at the show that closed with another highlight: a particularly rousing rendition of her original composition/homage to her hometown, Houston, Texas--"H*Town," from her Helenistique CD.

Helen Sung has come into her own as a major artist. Her San Diego show was a marvelous, energized, spirited set of sounds. Live jazz doesn't get any better.

Featured Member Profile: Jazz Pianist Helen Sung
Emily Bowles | Aug 19, 2010 8:00 am

A jazz pianist and composer with three albums to her credit, Helen Sung synthesizes facets of her experience into her music. Raised in the South, trained in classical piano and violin, and later drawn to jazz, she creates music that defies easy categorization. Her compositions embrace unusual structures, experimental song forms, various grooves and rhythms, and unconventional sources of inspiration. She has worked with such jazz masters as Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Ron Carter, Jon Faddis, Wayne Shorter, T.S. Monk, and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter. As one of the winners of the Con Edison Musician's Residency: Composers Program, she's currently in residence at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, New York.

We're proud to say that Helen has been a member of Fractured Atlas since 2004! She recently took time out from her hectic schedule to tell us about her experiences performing and her current work.

Helen, in your composer's statement, you say that your work is the expression of your "ongoing effort to increasingly synthesize the diverse facets of [your] experience.” What are some of these facets of your life and could you describe how they have influenced you?

A major facet is my classical background: besides studying the classical piano repertoire, I also played violin in school orchestras, youth symphony, and all kinds of chamber groups up through high school. The myriad colors, textures, different musical forms and instrumentations, are deep in my ears!

continue reading at www.fracturedatlas.org >>

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Composer's Spotlight: Helen Sung in Residence at Flushing Town Hall

Jazz pianist Helen Sung is one of four Queens-based composers chosen as winners of the 2010 Con Edison Musicians' Residency: Composition Program. In this interview she describes her influences, current projects and what it's like to perform with some of the living jazz greats.

Helen, when did you start composing?

I started composing while a student at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. The great bassist Ron Carter was artistic director, and I'll never forget what he said: if one wants to develop/find his/her own "voice” he/she should compose music. Thus, we each had to compose one piece per week, and then during our weekly ensemble class, Mr. Carter would have us play each student's work and then critique it. No one is more surprised than me that I would be able to write compositions and even perform them!

You've studied and performed with many of the greatest masters of jazz. Can you tell us about one or two really unforgettable moments with one or more of them?

Getting to play with Wayne Shorter, one of my favorite musicians and composers of all time, was an incredible thrill. Being around him is a rare experience - listening to him play, and talk (he has such a way with words...and notes!). We also toured India & Thailand with Wayne and Herbie Hancock. I still remember the first time I saw Herbie - we were at the departure airport - initially it was surreal to see him in three-dimensional space! Having Ron Carter as our artistic director month after month was an unforgettable two years. Working with trumpet great Clark Terry has been a great honor - what a wonderful legacy he has as a performer and educator. I'll always remember when another trumpet great, Dizzy-protégé Jon Faddis, told me I needed to learn about the blues. Piano master Barry Harris, who carries the bebop torch so brilliantly...to tell you the truth, every single jazz master was unforgettable.

You toured parts of Africa last year with your group, NuGenerations... What were some of the highlights?

One highlight was the Harare International Festival for the Arts (HIFA) in Zimbabwe. Everyone was saying how dangerous things were in Zimbabwe, how economically unstable it was, along with widespread poverty, suffering, and scarce resources; thus, it was especially inspiring to see a country (and continent) gather peacefully to celebrate arts and music for a week. Artists and ensembles from all over the world performed all types of music - it was truly a global event, and a testament to the power of the arts as a force for good. May HIFA live long and prosper!

Meeting and interacting with young musicians in every country we visited were also a highlight: from Harare's Book Cafe where musicians, artists, poets, and actors meet to share ideas and engage in art; to the universities in Johannesburg and Windhoek (Namibia); to the dynamic young talent that is being encouraged and nurtured in the townships...all great stuff.

What kind of work have you been able to accomplish during your residency at Flushing Town Hall thus far?
I've been able to finish a song project called Sung With Words - it's a collection of mostly original music where I've taken poems and set them to music. Writing for and working with vocalists has been a great learning experience. I hope to record the project before the end of the year. Dana Gioia, poet and former Chairman for the NEA, was the original inspiration for this project (the first poem I set was one of his), and we plan to collaborate on a new song cycle together, co-creating the music and words. Fortunately, I've been in a heavy writing phase, so I've also completed quite a few new instrumental compositions that will be on the next couple of recording projects. Finally, because of a recent gig that had a focus on young people, I discovered pianist Chick Corea's Children's Songs (20 short pieces for solo piano) and have been arranging them for jazz piano trio as well as solo piano - that's been a lot of fun.

How has the Con Edison Residency helped you?

Well, to get the pragmatic stuff out of the way first - air conditioning! Although I was fortunate to be away from NYC during the hottest part of July, the rest of this summer has still been quite warm and muggy. It's a great blessing to have a comfortable working environment at Flushing Town Hall - I can relax and focus on the tasks at hand. My apartment's noisy window unit doesn't quite cut it... Also, to be able to work on the Steinway grand pianos at Flushing Town Hall is amazing. When the instrument is inspiring, one can reach new heights and hear new things. And Flushing Town Hall's art gallery, where one of the pianos is housed, is a wonderful space. I find the rotating work exhibits stimulating and enjoy checking them out either before or after my work sessions.

Learn more about Helen Sung on her website, which has her upcoming performance itinerary, contact information, her CDs and an e-mail sign-up.

Helen Sung: A pianist swings into jazz
Though the jazz musicians hung out in a room right across the hall from where the classical players practiced, Helen Sung never bothered to poke her head in and have a listen.

There was no need: Sung, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, was on the fast track to becoming a classical pianist. She had zero interest in listening to jazz.

"I was well on my way," says Sung, who will perform with her quartet Friday at the Central Pa. Jazz Festival in Harrisburg. "I thought I was going to be your standard classical pianist and learn this huge repertoire. I was deep into it."

A friend unwittingly helped shake Sung's musical foundation when she dragged her to a Harry Connick Jr. concert on the college campus. The concert featured Connick's big band, but the New Orleans musician played some solo pieces in the middle of the concert, including some stride piano in the style of Professor Longhair.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'Wow, I didn't know you were allowed to play the piano like that,' " Sung says.

She started to take some jazz classes at the school and became more and more conflicted about what musical path she should follow. Her commitment to classical music crumbled completely when she heard a recording of pianist Tommy Flanagan playing Charlie Parker's "Confirmation."

"It just grabbed me," Sung says during a telephone interview from her New York apartment. "I said, 'Oh my god, I have to learn to play this.' It's the swing, the feeling the swing gives you. There's nothing like it."

Sung switched from classical to jazz, and has never regretted her decision. This year's festival, sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, is dedicated to "Women in Jazz."

Sung and her quartet (Greg Tandy, saxophone; Vicente Archer, bass; and Justin Faulkner, drums) will perform Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Hilton Harrisburg, where all the concerts will be held. DIVA, a 15-member all-female jazz orchestra, will follow with performances at 9:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the Hot Club of Detroit, with woodwind player Anat Cohen as a special guest, will perform at 6 p.m. Tia Fuller, a saxophonist who plays in singer Beyonce's band, and her quartet will play at 8 p.m. and headliner Patti Austin, a Grammy-winning jazz and blues vocalist, will perform at 10 p.m.

Following her graduation from the University of Texas, Sung became part of the inaugural class of seven students at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

The students studied with musicians like Ron Carter, Slide Hampton and Jon Faddis and performed with Clark Terry, Wynton Marsalis and James Moody. They also toured India and Thailand with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

"I remember freaking out," Sung says. "These guys are on all my CDs. But the experience, I think, has made me the player I am today. "I really learned to respect the music," Sung says, "and I was really lucky to have these masters kicking my behind for two years." Sung, who performs with the Mingus Big Band and Terry's "Big Badd" Big Band, as well as her own groups, has released three CDs, including her latest, "Sungbird (after Albeniz)," in 2007.

She will release a live album recorded at the Jazz Standards on Sunnyside Records later this year and in January will release on Steeplechase Records a studio album she recorded with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, whom she describes as a "Rolls Royce of a rhythm section." Sung says there was some resistance from her parents and others when she decided to cross the hallway and hang with the jazz musicians, but she never looked back.

"My classical teachers were disappointed, but jazz grabbed me in a way classical never did," she says.

Helen Sung: A Jazz Education
KadmusArts Podcasts
WBGO 88.3FM, January 21, 2009

Pianist, composer and bandleader Helen Sung is one of the most exciting artists in the jazz world today. She has worked with jazz masters, including Clark Terry, Slide Hampton and Wayne Shorter, and her project NuGenerations was selected as a 2009 US State Department Rhythm Road ensemble. She has been featured on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz show and NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater.

In this interview Helen talks about her own music education, her hopes for arts education in the public school system and her travels through southern Africa with the Rhythm Road Project.


U.S. Embassy Windhoek, Namibia


U.S. Jazz Ensemble Visits Namibia To Promote Mutual Understanding Through Music

The jazz ensemble Helen Sung and NuGenerations, visited Namibia May 8 through 14, 2009. Their performances and musical workshops were free, courtesy of the U. S. Embassy Windhoek and The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program.

Helen Sung and NuGenerations fuses jazz tradition with musical exploration. Its jazz roots firmly established, this ensemble takes creative risks, sparking new works and innovative performances. A project of bandleader Helen Sung, each member of this New York City-based band represents a different generation of life and musical experience. With diverse backgrounds including classical music, R&B, funk and world-music, and from varied origins across the United States - from the Bay Area to Michigan to Texas to Chicago - Helen Sung & NuGenerations collectively create distinctive music and inspire audiences to participate in and learn more about this great American art form, jazz.


Music Promotes Mutual Understanding
Namibia Economist

Windhoek - The American Cultural Centre is this weekend featuring the cool, jazzy sounds of Helen Sung and NuGenerations, a jazz ensemble from the US, which is visiting Namibia.

Their performances and musical workshops are free, courtesy of the US Embassy Windhoek and The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad programme.

Helen Sung and NuGenerations fuse jazz tradition with musical exploration. Its jazz roots firmly established, this ensemble takes creative risks, sparking new works and innovative performances.


Helen Sung & NuGenerations Jazz Up Jozi
Diplomatic Mission to South Africa
May 15, 2009

Jazz artist Helen Sung and her band NuGenerations ended their southern African tour with concerts in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The US Consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town hosted these concerts by the American Rhythm Road jazz musicians May 15 to May 24 2009. In Johannesburg they performed at the Bassline in Newtown where the concert was preceded by a reception hosted by Chargé Helen LaLime and graced by high level governmental, media, cultural and entertainment personalities.


WBGO Interview With Helen Sung
w/ Gary Walker
WBGO 88.3FM, January 21, 2009

Gary interviews pianist and composer Helen Sung on his morning show.


KUHF Interview With Helen Sung
w/ Eric Ladau
KUHF 88.7FM, January 23, 2009

Interview with Eric Ladau for Houston's KUHF 88.7FM's "The Front Row" publicizing the performance at the Trinity Jazz Festival (part of my TX tour!).

Part 1:

Part 2:

IAM Interview With Helen Sung
By Christy Tennant
January 21, 2009

Christy interviews pianist and composer Helen Sung, who performed at Encounter 09 on February 27.


Sing Tao (Chinese Newspaper)
February 11, 2009
February 17, 2009

Helen's been discovered by the Chinese press, Sing Tao is the world's largest Chinese daily newspaper check it out!

'Shall We Tango' With Helen Sung
September 3, 2008

Helen Sung is putting her classical and jazz selves together. She comes from Houston, where she studied classical piano, and was accepted into a select group at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, then at the New England Conservatory of Music. She graduated from the institute in 1997.

In 2007, Sung won the Kennedy Center's Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition. The award included a performing slot at the 2008 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival.

As Larry Appelbaum wrote in JazzTimes about one song in this set, "Sung's classical studies were obvious in her expressive touch and rubato approach on "Shall We Tango," as [Richie] Goods played triple stops and [Donald] Edwards locked into a 'Poinciana' beat." The saxophonist is Steve Wilson. Take a listen.

Helen plays "Shall We Tango" from her CD, Sungbird. And leads her own group at the American Museum of Natural History in New York — and playing in violinist Regina Carter's group — on JazzSet.

Listen Now »

Interview with Pianist/Composer Helen Sung
From The Jazz Clinic
Monday, June 02, 2008

Pianist Helen Sung was kind enough to do an email interview with me several months ago. It has certainly taken me long enough to post this. Since conducting it, fellow blogger Willard Jenkins (a voice on jazz I respect very much) posted an interview with Ms. Sung on his blog, The Independent Ear. I was particularly struck with Helen's latest release as a leader, Sungbird (after Albéniz) was released last summer on Sunnyside Records. A more complete bio can be found here.

I've heard that you were well on your way to becoming a classical player when you began discovering and playing jazz. Having attended High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston you must have been exposed to jazz? How is it that it wasn't until college that you became serious about playing jazz? Do you feel that you had any advantages or disadvantages from starting to play jazz at the time you did?

Helen Sung: Believe it or not, I wasn't exposed to the terrific jazz program at [High School for the Performing and Visual Arts] when I was a student there. I was trained by a strict Russian classical pianist (i.e. classical music is the only music you should listen to) so I was pretty firmly entrenched. Also, I probably unconsciously avoided checking it out - I was intimidated by jazz music, by the fact that jazzers could improvise...something I had no idea about and couldn't do at all. Thinking back, probably the only jazz I heard growing up was on Sesame Street, Charlie Brown and Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood...

Continue Reading »

Mozart Festival's Music for Young People
From Channel 3 News
Shelburne, Vermont - July 20, 2008

Review Excerpt of Mary Lou Williams Jazzfest
From Jazztimes
May 2008
By Larry Appelbaum

"The opening act of the second night, pianist Helen Sung, offered one of the strongest sets of the entire festival. Leading a quartet with saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Richie Goods and drummer Donald Edwards, Sung served up a medley of Monk tunes, including "In Walked Bud," "Bye-Ya" and "Bright Mississippi" (based on "Sweet Georgia Brown"). Her arrangement made imaginative use of disguised intros, vamp transitions between solos, and off-kilter dissonance in her left hand comping. Sung's classical studies were obvious in her
...imaginative use of disguised intros, vamp transitions between solos, and off-kilter dissonance in her left hand comping.
expressive touch and rubato approach on "Shall We Tango," as Goods played triple stops and Edwards locked into a Poinciana beat.

Sung, who won the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz piano competition last year, helped present this year's saxophone competition award to young Hailey Mae Niswanger. The festival then gave its biggest Women in Jazz award to vocalist Sheila Jordan. It was an inspired choice, as Jordan embodies the generosity, commitment and creative spirit of Williams. At age 79, Jordan has lost some of her breath control, which affects her intonation, but she hit the festival's emotional high point as she accepted her award and sang her thanks to Charlie Parker a cappella. She also reminisced that "Every time I come to D.C. I think of my dear friend Shirley Horn." ... Read the complete review

Review of Sungbird (after Albeniz)
From Jazztimes
By Scott Albin

For the pianist's third CD (not counting Live at the Blue Note, only available online), Helen Sung has chosen to go in a completely new direction. While last year's excellent trio release, Helenistique, focused on standards and jazz classics, with Sungbird (after Albéniz) she returns to her musical roots. Classically trained, Sung didn't pick up on jazz until college, and then went on to become a semi-finalist in the 1999 Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition. In 2006 she took the band on this CD--saxman Marcus Strickland, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Nasheet Waits
This successful project will appeal to both jazz and classical listeners.
(but not percussionist Samuel Torres)--on a tour of Spain and Andorra. She decided to arrange for the group a classical work by a Spanish composer, and chose "España, Op.165," a suite of six pieces for solo piano, written in 1890 by Isaac Albéniz.

Sung movingly performs the six short pieces solo on this recording, with little embellishment, the music an engaging combination of standard classical forms and Spanish folk idioms such as flamenco, tango, malaguena and zortzico. They served as inspiration for her own compositions that fill out the CD (albeit still only a disappointing 42:37 in length). Sung and Strickland (on tenor and soprano) both deliver crisply articulated and soundly constructed solos on the pianist's lilting "Shall We Tango," the tango/waltz tempoed "Sungbird," and the intense "Free Fusion," the latter remindful in its exuberant spirit of Michel Camilo. Rogers solos authoritatively on his features, "Malaguena Miniatura" and "Capricho American." Waits provides tasteful and assured rhythm support on all these tunes. This successful project will appeal to both jazz and classical listeners.

Review of Sungbird (after Albeniz)
From Billboard
By Ken Dryden, All Music Guide

Pianist Helen Sung's third CD as a leader heads in a different direction. During a European tour, she decided to look for some Spanish classical work to adapt for her group, choosing Isaac Albéniz's Espana, Op. 156. But for this recording, she intermingled her own compositions with solo piano interpretations of individual movements of Albéniz's work, creating a seamless recording in which one composer's contributions complement the other's.
Sung... leaves the listener wanting more.
Her classical background is apparent, though she takes some liberties with the Albéniz's melodies. On the quintet tracks, her supporting band, including Marcus Strickland (tenor and soprano saxophones), bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Nasheet Waits and percussionist Samuel Torres, follow her muse and bring out the full potential of her catchy tunes. Clocking just under 43 minutes, Sung actually leaves the listener wanting more.

Review of Sungbird (after Albeniz)
From Billboard
By Dan McClenaghan

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' six piece work for solo piano, Espana, along with her own loose interpretations of the work in six original compositions employing a sax and rhythm section jazz quartet and added percussionist.

...classical/jazz tunes are interwoven, highlighting the differences and similarities of the sounds.
Sung describes Espana as: "...beautifully-written pieces that were distinctive, simple yet profound, concise and with room for adaptation." They are all of that; and so are her compositions. Her six pieces tint the jazz sound with a classical hue. The title tune has a light, airy swing--Marcus Strickland, on soprano sax, is awesome here, with a sweet, delicate strength to his tone--and "Capricho American," following Albeniz' "Capricho Catalan," is arranged with a string quartet steeped-in-the-blues feeling--check out Reuben Roger's bass moving back and forth from bowed to plucked, with Strickland's tenor sax floating over the top.

"Shall We Tango" has a gentle momentum, a light bounce in its step, with Sung splashing gorgeously in front of drummer Nasheet Waits' soft, insistent rumble, while "Free Fusion" begins with Sung soloing in an abstract mode before the quartet joins her and finds a groove.

The Albeniz/Sung, classical/jazz tunes are interwoven, highlighting the differences and similarities of the sounds. Sung says: "Jazz certainly uses elements of classical music, but it definitely is its own thang," (she's from Houston). And then she goes and marries the two forms into a beautiful union.

Interview with Helen Sung
Reprinted with permissions from New Jersey Jazz Society
By Schaen Fox
Open PDF to View »

Review of Sungbird (after Albeniz)
From All About Jazz Los Angeles
By George W. Harris

Get your credit cards out for buying this one, it's a real winner. Very rarely has the combination of jazz and classical genre's worked out. Miles' "Sketches of Spain" and MJQ's "Blues on Bach" just about covers it, and it's understandable if you're skittish about trying it again. Pianist Helen Sung has done it right, intertwining solo piano works in the Romantic vein with mixtures of band pieces that imbibe influences
...you will be as fascinated by this disc on the 20th listening as on the first.
from Coltrane to Jamal. Six of the compositions are from the 19th century composer Isaac Albeniz, yet Sung brings them up to date in a stirringly remarkable fashion. Compositions like "Prelude", "Tango" and Capticho Catalan" are exquisite, intimate and fluorescent pieces that conjure up images of Basque countryside. Meanwhile, Sung's own "Preamble", is reminiscent of Coltrane's "Crescent", and "Shall We Tango?" harkens back to Pershing Room Ahmad Jamal. Marcus Strickland gives off some remarkably restrained sax work on the session, being able to show feeling and emotion without breaking the desired atmosphere, no small feat. The rhythm section of Samuel Torres (percussion), Nasheet Waits (d) and Reuben Robers (b) is sympathetic without being overly deferential. They know they are onto something important on this recording. I personally guarantee you will be as fascinated by this disc on the 20th listening as on the first. Find it now!

Review of Helenistique
From the Hartford Courant
By Owen McNally

Helen Sung, a pianist with classical chops and jazz street smarts, is on a roll this year, completing her first international tour as a band leader and now riding the wave of this excellent, high-octane release.

Although Sung was a semifinalist in the 1999 Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano competition and has worked for such renowned band leaders as Clark Terry, T.S. Monk and Regina Carter, she hasn't yet received the recognition she merits for her dazzling playing.

Right from the first track - an original dedicated to her hometown of Houston - Sung's singing lines and bright, crisp sound come shining through as fleet and fine as Phineas Newborn.

Whatever tune she plays, whether Thelonious Monk's "Bye Ya" or Joe Henderson's "Black Narcissus," becomes her own thing. Rodgers and Hart's "Lover" glides as elegantly as a classic Fred and Ginger waltz before rocketing into 4/4. Prince's "Alphabet Street" dances to a funky backbeat, then surges into hard-swinging jazz.

Sung's bouquet of evergreens ranges from a lover's heartfelt reading of "Sweet and Lovely" to a finger-popping, foot-stomping romp through "Carolina Shout," the venerable James P. Johnson's rollicking tour de force.

Sung's sidemen, Lewis Nash, a brilliant, empathetic drummer; and Derrick Hodge, a phenomenal young bassist, are totally in sync with their leader's imaginative improvisations and arrangements.

Review of Helenistique
From Skanner Newspapers
July 5, 2006
By Dick Bogle

This young pianist studied with some of the masters, including Ron Carter, Clark Terry, Barry Harris and Jackie McLean.

Helen Sung, heard on this release with bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Lewis Nash, is creative and has a unique sound. Because of her sheer artistry, once this relative unknown is heard for the first time, she will convert the listener to an unabashed fan.

Her individualistic style is captured on tunes like "Lover," "Sweet and Lovely," "Cotton Tail," "Bye Ya," "Willow Weep for Me" and more.

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