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The Mary Lou Williams Festival at the Kennedy Center

Date: 
Friday, October 11, 2013 - 6:00pm

JazzSet is at the 18th edition of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Dee Dee Bridgewater is the MC.

Our first guest tonight hails from Houston,TX, and currently based in New York City. She’s been making waves as an expressive performer and composer with five CDs to her credit. Helen went to college in Austin, Texas, where hearing a Tommy Flanagan solo drew her from classical piano to jazz. To this day she recommends that young people study classical music, even if jazz is their goal.

She started out in musical life thinking she wanted to be a concert pianist, “and I am so grateful this music made room for me,” says Helen from the stage after playing a song she wrote for Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale, brewed at North Coast in California. Helen is a graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute graduate program, and former winner of a Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition at the Kennedy Center.

A few years ago, Sung performed with the Mingus Big Band for thousands of people in Taiwan, where her parents grew up. It was a huge night for her. Helen Sung’s NuGenerations project was named a Rhythm Road Jazz Ambassador, touring Africa for the U.S. State Department.

Talent, dedication, a skill at adapting classical dances to jazz formats, great solos, her ability to listen and lock in with her rhythm sections and to lead her band with her smiles – these are some of Helen’s musical and personal qualities that make her one to watch and listen to.

Anthem for a New Day comes out in January 2014 on the Concord label.
Her previous albums are on the Sunnyside label.

Trumpeter Brandon Lee also comes from “H-Town” (see last song title). Saxophonist Seamus Blake grew up in Vancouver and won the 2002 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Ben Wolfe on bass comes from Baltimore and Portland, Oregon, and Donald Edwards on drums is from Louisiana and New Orleans.

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