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Helen Sung Quintet & “Sung with Words”

December 1, 2018

| $25.00
Helen Sung

Helen Sung Quintet & “Sung with Words”

Saturday December 1, 7:30 pm* (see note below)

Helen Sung – piano, Christie Dashiell – vocalist, John Ellis – saxophone, Reuben Rogers – bass, Adam Cruz – drums

“What’s striking…is an openness of vision, paired with a looseness of execution. Ms. Sung sounds both relaxed and searching,
and she imparts the same qualities to her crew.” – The New York Times

“A truly unique composer and arranger. Her music is adventurous, personal, and a powerful force to be reckoned with in the
jazz world.” – International Review of Music

Winning a 2014 Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation “New Jazz Works” grant (given each year to support the
compositional efforts of U.S. based jazz artists) enabled pianist/composer Helen Sung to fulfill a long-time dream: to create
Sung With Words, a collaborative project with the celebrated American poet Dana Gioia. Utilizing jazz and poetry as powerful
catalysts to create new music, Sung With Words is Sung’s first recording to feature all original music, consisting of vocal works
where Gioia’s poems serve as lyrics, as well as instrumental compositions inspired by words (for example, her Lament for
Kalief Browder). Dana is from Northern CA, lives in Santa Rosa, and is California’s State Poet Laureate.

Jazz writer David Adler perceptively states in his liner notes: “The affinity between jazz and poetry stretches back to Langston
Hughes and others writing in the “Jazz Age” of the ’20s, forward to the Beat Generation and up to today. Poets played a central
role in the ’60s avant-garde and free jazz, not to mention the current intertwined exchange between jazz and hip-hop. In recent
years, Andrew Rathbun has composed works inspired by Margaret Atwood; Luciana Souza by Neruda and Elizabeth Bishop;
John Hollenbeck by Kenneth Patchen — the list goes on.”

Now, Sung and Gioia enter the fray, and with aplomb! Sung first met Gioia at a White House State Dinner and discovered he
was a fan and champion of jazz (during his term he spearheaded the revival of the National Endowment’s Jazz Masters Award
into the robust program it is today, and his younger brother is noted jazz author Ted Gioia). Poetry hadn’t been an area of focus
for the pianist/composer so she was intrigued to meet a ‘live’ poet. “Dana has a fascinating story, both personally and
professionally, and one of his many gifts is his ability to make poetry accessible and even enjoyable for the layperson, similar to
how Wynton Marsalis does with jazz,” Sung says. Elaborating further, “After high school required poetry, I stayed away,
remembering how I disliked feeling unsure of a poem’s meaning, worrying that I was the only one who didn’t ‘get it’.”

In conversation with Gioia, however, Sung found her footing: “I admitted my general feelings about poetry, and he said, ‘Don’t
worry too much about literal meaning. Read the poem out loud, listen to how the words fall rhythmically, how they flow, how the
consonants and vowels sound, and meaning will come – usually sideways.’ It was a revelation! I also discovered when I would
imagine lines of poetry as a melodic phrase or rhythmic pattern, it would illuminate the words and the poem would come alive
with meaning. I soon thought, why not make this into a song? This led to the desire to create a full-length album of songs, and I
couldn’t think of a more exciting and inspiring collaborator than Dana when I applied for the Chamber Music America ‘New Jazz
Works’ grant.”

Sung With Words also reflects Sung’s fascination with the direct connection vocalists have with the listener. Unlike
instrumentalists who deal purely with sound, vocalists are armed with lyrics that can be readily understood by the listener –
they can be storytellers in a very tangible way. “It has been a great learning experience dealing with words – building sonic
worlds around Dana’s poems that express what those words mean to me,” says Sung. “In my research for writing the music for
Sung With Words I found inspiration in music where words, rhythm and sound are interwoven in ways that move me – music of
artists such as Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, A Tribe Called Quest, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Esperanza Spaulding, Terri
Lyne Carrington, etc. I have a great respect for the art of song-writing and wanted to answer the challenge: to present Dana’s
words in my own musical language – as an honest distillation of what I hear, and how I hear.”

Helen Sung is a pianist of great breadth and excellence, able to enrapture an audience as a soloist; one of the few pianists in
the world who can perform in a duo setting with the legendary Ron Carter; lead a trio with such fire and absolute brilliance that
it will transport you back to the heyday of Bradley’s in the 80s/90s; or, dive into a larger formats ranging from Quartet to Big
Band (as evidenced by her contribution on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2017 Blue Engine release Handful of Keys). Steeped in the
blues and post-bop, with an affinity for Monk, but also able to expertly deal with James P. Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton, Sung
has worked with a “Who’s Who” in jazz, including the late Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Terri Lyne
Carrington, the Mingus Big Band and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter. A graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz,
Sung knows the tradition and uses this bedrock to build upon and expand her artistic vision. Her recorded output reveals a
composer and bandleader, second to none: Push (2003), Helenistique (2006), Sungbird (2007), Going Express (2010),
(re)Conception (2011), and Anthem For a New Day (2014). Sung With Words is a thrilling next step in the pianist’s glorious and
inspiring evolution, and Sung fittingly declares, “It’s been a great adventure and I look forward to sharing this music with the


Come early Come and enjoy the Fort Bragg Holiday Lights Parade which starts at 7 pm and passes our parking lot first!

There will be no vehicle access to our parking lot from 5:45 pm till after 8 pm. if you don’t arrive early, you are suggested to park on Franklin, North of Pine.

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