Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Helen Sung Anthem For A New Day Concord 2014

Jazz can be takes an artist such as Helen Sung to clean it up.
Brent Black /
I was searching and to a lesser degree hoping I would find a special new release to jump start 2014. Look no further, Helen Sung's Anthem For A New Day reinvents the piano led ensembles that have morphed into a more virtuoso type recital release and is quietly deconstructing a format that has become nothing if not predictable. The genius behind Sung's effort with her Concord debut is that instrumentation such as bass clarinet, violin and the Rhodes allow for organic colors and the intensity of Helen Sung to embrace her own artistic sense of self. In short, Helen Sung is the rare artist that is comfortable with who she is and where she is going.
This ten track gem is evenly split between dynamic original compositions and some forgotten favorites. Helen Sung's roots and formal training are based in the classical and it would have been all too easy for Anthem For A New Day to slip into that third stream category of chamber jazz but Sung carefully sidesteps this obvious landmine by drawing from her own innate sense of style and flair and allows all the participants to have a relatively equal artistic footing from which to create.
There are some subtle lyrical bits of classical humor tossed about in "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." One of the most impressive riffs is her interpretation of the Thelonious Monk classic "Epistrophy." It is Sung's exponential growth from a purely technical perspective that firmly establishes her as one of the finest two handed performers in improvisational music today. The original compositions "Brother Thelonious" and "Anthem For A New Day" are lyrical calling cards of harmonic depth and a celebration of Sung's confidence and perhaps merely a hint of things to come.

This Concord debut for Sung is a grounded statement of artistic integrity and the reinvention of the somewhat tired and predictable piano led ensembles that usually wind up with a virtuoso performance accompanied by some afterthoughts. Helen Sung has arrived.
Tracks: Brother Thelonious; Armando's Rhumba; Hidden; It Don't Mean A Thing; Hope Springs Eternally; Anthem For A New Day; Never Let Me Go; Chaos Theory; Epistrophy; Equipose.

Personnel: Helen Sung: Piano, Rhodes; Seamus Blake: Tenor and Soprano Sax; Ingrid Jensen: Trumpet; Reuben Rogers: Bass; Obed Calvaire: Drums; Samuel Torres: Percussion; John Ellis: Bass Clarinet (6); Regina Carter: Violin (3,7); Paquito D' Rivera: Clarinet (2).