Helen Sung | Sungbird (After Albeniz)

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Helen Sung.com Helen's MySpace page Sunnyside Records

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Jazz: Chamber Jazz Jazz: Progressive Jazz Moods: Type: Experimental
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Sungbird (After Albeniz)

by Helen Sung

Acknowledging her classical roots in her 3rd album (a Sunnyside Records debut), pianist Helen Sung produces a fusion of jazz and classical music that is uncompromisingly unique and "a real winner," "leaving the listener wanting more."
Genre: Jazz: Chamber Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Prelude
1:50 album only
2. Tango
2:23 album only
3. Preamble
1:12 album only
4. Shall We Tango?
6:28 album only
5. Malaguena Miniatura
2:10 album only
6. Malaguena
3:16 album only
7. Serenata
3:42 album only
8. Sungbird
6:10 album only
9. Capricho Catalan
3:35 album only
10. Capricho American
3:28 album only
11. Free Fusion
5:50 album only
12. Encore: Zortzico
2:27 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Though jazz and classical music historically have had a complicated relationship, there have been many efforts to intermingle the two - listen to Bill Evans' takes on Scriabin, Faure, and Ravel on his Trio with Symphony Orchestra recording; the Modern Jazz Quartet's Blues on Bach, and on the Miles Davis/Gil Evans masterpiece, Sketches of Spain. That fabled European country also provides the setting for 'Sungbird (After Albeniz)', the Sunnyside Records debut of the astoundingly talented, Houston-born, Chinese-American pianist Helen Sung. The album is Sung's incredible extension and elaboration on the legendary Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz's 1890, six-piece work for solo piano, Espana, Opus 165.

This CD, with saxophonist Marcus Strickland, bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Nasheet Waits, and percussionist Samuel Torres, is the long-awaited follow-up to Sung's two Fresh Sound/New Talent label recordings, Helenistique and Push. "In 2006, I took the band on this CD (minus the percussionist) on a short tour in Spain and Andorra," Sung writes in her liner notes. "One of the gigs was a concert that was part of an annual classical arts festival. As I prepared music for the tour, it struck me: why not arrange for jazz quartet a classical piece by a Spanish composer? I eventually found Isaac Albeniz's "Espana", Op.165, and it was what I was looking for: beautifully written pieces that were distinctive, simple, yet profound, concise and with room for adaptation! The resulting jazz pieces range from simple orchestrations to complete transformation."

Sung's sterling pianism blends Chopinesque lyricism and Bill Evans' improvisational logic with a linear and logical sense of swing on the CD's 12 tracks, half of which were composed by the leader. The six selections from Albeniz's composition - Prelude, Tango, Malaguena, Serenata, Capricho Catalan, and Zortzico - are intimate solo keyboard conversations between Sung and the composer's exotic Basque, fandango, flamenco, and Gypsy-dance/ballad genres. The rest of the tracks were composed by Sung: "Preamble" is a John Coltrane 'Crescent'-coded piece that introduces the bouncy, Ahmad Jamal-Poinciana-pulsed "Shall We Tango?" "Malaguena Miniatura" and "Free Fusion" are New World/Latin jazzed numbers, and "Capricho American" evolves from a hymnal aura into down-home spiritual syncopations. The title track "Sungbird" is a remarkable synthesis of her jazz and classical sounds, and the gem of the album.

What Helen Sung has done on 'Sungbird (After Albeniz)' is only the tip of her towering artistic iceberg. "Having come to jazz relatively late, I've spent most of the years since trying to swing and soak in the blues," she continues in the liner notes. "At the same time, there is the desire to improvise and write with increasing clarity and the variety of texture seen in the classical music I played. Perhaps this CD project is an attempt to begin integrating the different paths of my musical experience."



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Sungbird (after Albeniz)
What an awesome blending of jazz and classical music. I have been playing this CD over and over, and each time I am more intrigued. I can't wait until the next project is available.