“Helen Sung has come into her own as a major artist”
— Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz
Winner of the 2007 Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition, and named by Wynton Marsalis as one of his 2011 “Who’s Got Next: Jazz Musicians to Watch” (Jet Magazine), pianist/composer Helen Sung is blazing her own path. As an Asian-American artist, she bridges diverse worlds with a singular sound and vision. A native of Houston, Texas, and graduate of its renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Sung was an aspiring classical pianist at the University of Texas at Austin before “a Tommy Flanagan solo changed everything”. She went on to graduate from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance (at the New England Conservatory) where she and 6 fellow students had the unprecedented opportunity to study directly with the living legends of jazz (master bassist Ron Carter was Artistic Director). Now this exceptional artist is enchanting listeners everywhere – her music swings, it’s funky, intelligent, and also has the elegant textures and dazzling technique of her classical background. Sung incorporates the influences of the masters in an utterly unique way, creating imaginative, modern music that thoroughly captivates.
Presently based in New York City, Sung has five first-rate albums to her credit including a 2011 debut CD on Steeplechase: (re)Conception and a 2nd CD (a live recording) on Sunnyside Records: Going Express(2010). Her Sunnyside debut Sungbird After Albenizis a jazz-classical project hailed as “a real winner” –All About Jazz; a “seamless recording in which one composer’s contributions complement the other’s” –BillBoard. Helenistique (Fresh Sound) was praised as “one of the year’s most exciting listens” (JazzTimes).
With acclaimed debuts at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival, and Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival, Sung is poised for the international stage – her trio was featured at the Kalisz International Jazz Piano Festival, the Jazz Lucca Donna Festival; and her NuGenerations project toured southern Africa as a US State Department-Rhythm Road Jazz Ambassador. Sung has also appeared on Marian McPartland’s celebrated Piano Jazz program and in publications including DownBeat, JazzTimes, and Keyboard. She has worked with such jazz luminaries as Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter, and currently can be seen (in addition to her own band) with fine ensembles including the Mingus Big Band & Mingus Dynasty, T.S.Monk Band, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy-winning Mosaic Project.
Sung’s rich experience at the Monk Institute inspires her to remain involved with music education through clinics and workshops. She produced a jazz residency program (made possible by a Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation grant) benefiting underserved youth, serves as Senior Faculty at the Litchfield Jazz Camp, and in the Fall of 2011 joined Berklee College of Music as an Associate Professor. In performance (and teaching), Sung welcomes “listeners into her world: a place of passion, adventure and drama, and truckloads of rhythm…taking audiences for a ride they won’t soon forget.” (Kalamazoo Gazette).
Helen is a Teaching Artist at Litchfield Jazz Camp. This is her first appearance on the Festival. She is joined by Reuben Rogers on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums.