Helen Sung Quartet | Jazz Showcase | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Helen Sung Quartet 

When: Thu., Oct. 9, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., Oct. 10, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., Oct. 11, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., Oct. 12, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2014
Price: $20, $35 VIP
Earlier this year pianist Helen Sung released Anthem for a New Day (Concord), her sixth album and first for a major label, and its stylistic sprawl—not to mention its title—leaves no doubt that she was trying to make a statement. But the Houston native, who was trained as a classical musician and switched to jazz in the late 90s while in college, has made strong, more focused achievements on her previous releases for Steeplechase and Sunnyside. The new record is more about her range than anything else, and on that count she succeeds (though sometimes at the expense of cohesion). On her moody tune “Hidden” she plays Fender Rhodes, emitting a strong 70s vibe, and her working band is supplemented by the lush melodicism of violinist Regina Carter, while a faithful spin through Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba” shows off her facility with Afro-Cuban forms, including some delightfully fluid clarinet soloing by Paquito D’Rivera. Her take on Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” teases the title by frequently changing the rhythmic feel, and only opting for actual swing here and there. The title track is a high-octane, rather fussy fusion exercise that lacks the sort of craft and originality at play on Sung’s arrangement of Monk’s “Epistrophy,” which adds a funky groove and gives the melody line a seductive hovering quality. On the recording she leads a sextet, but for her first extended Chicago engagement Sung fronts a band composed of reedist John Ellis, bassist Hamilton Price, and drummer Jamire Williams, and to my ears she sounds better in this smaller context. —Peter Margasak

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