Helen Sung

Jean-Baptiste Millot

From jazz and poetry to the plight of immigrants, Take Five looks at five new tunes that explore cultural currency in music.

WBGO

Helen Sung is a classically trained pianist who discovered jazz and found her passion for writing music when working with master bassist Ron Carter at the Monk Institute. Every day there, she would embark on writing a new piece of music.

wBGO

Before she honored the life and music of her “friend and sister” Geri Allen with a Winter Jazzfest concert at the New School, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington gave us a live preview last Friday on WBGO’s Afternoon Jazz.

Carrington — leading a group with vocalist Lizz Wright, pianist Helen Sung and bassist Kenny Davis — filled our performance space with the spirit and music of Allen, who passed away last June, two weeks after her 60th birthday.  

Jati Lindsay / Courtesy of the Kennedy Center

What are the holidays without Charlie Brown? Nowadays, the quietly elegant and celebratory recordings by pianist Vince Guaraldi have become as much a part of the holidays as the sound of unwrapping presents. And every year we are treated to at least one interpretation of that classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by one of the pianists on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas. This year is no exception.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

A pair of great pianists, Helen Sung and Isaiah Thompson, recently stopped by Morning Jazz to play and chat about what moves them to move us.

Sung was in the first class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, studying with Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath and Clark Terry — with all of whom she would one day play professionally. She has just returned from China, performing Monk’s music to packed houses in Beijing and Shanghai. After Monday’s performance with the Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard, she and the band will travel with Mingus’ music to Tokyo for a week.

Kendrick Scott opened his first set on Tuesday night, at the Jazz Standard in New York City, with a pensive new composition titled "Home." It had a bittersweet melody, a waft of dark harmony, and a beat defined both by chop and flow. "I'm just going to send this out as a meditation for everybody in Houston, Texas right now," said Scott, a drummer, as he introduced the tune.

Pianist and composer Helen Sung was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and received rigorous classical training before pivoting to jazz. She has made up for lost time since, working with mentors like bassist Ron Carter, and releasing several well-received albums of her own. 

Sung appears with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis at Mezzrow on Sunday, with the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard on Monday, and at the Caramoor Jazz Festival on July 15. She recently joined host Sheila Anderson in a conversation on Salon Sessions.