Helen Sung to bring ‘Sung With Words’ to Healdsburg, Dec. 2 | The Healdsburg Tribune

Helen Sung to bring ‘Sung With Words’ to Healdsburg, Dec. 2 | The Healdsburg Tribune


Experience an unusual collaboration between jazz artist Helen Sung and state Poet Laureate Dana Gioia on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 7 to 9 p.m. at Paul Mahder Gallery, 222 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg

A different side of jazz comes to Healdsburg next month when Helen Sung, pianist and composer, returns to town in a performance of her new CD, “Sung With Words.” Sung and her quartet will appear at Healdsburg’s Paul Mahder Gallery, on Sunday, Dec. 2. Unlike Sung’s earlier work, which followed more traditional jazz improvisation styles, this effort features many songs with “lyrics” by Dana Gioia, the current California State Poet Laureate and a former director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

In addition to Sung on piano, the combo will include John Ellis on saxophone, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Adam Cruz, drums. Christie Dashiell, one of the vocalists featured on the “Sung With Words” CD, will join the Healdsburg performance for the songs featuring Gioia’s words.

The 20-year-old nonprofit Healdsburg Jazz presents a rare opportunity to hear this amazing project in the intimate and artful setting of the Paul Mahder Gallery, 222 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. Doors open at 6:30 for the 7 p.m. performance on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Utilizing jazz and poetry as powerful catalysts to create new music, “Sung With Words” is Sung’s first recording to feature all original music, consisting of vocal works where Gioia’s poems serve as lyrics, as well as instrumental compositions inspired by his words.

Gioia, who met Sung at a White House State Dinner while he was director of the NEA, will not be present.

The Dec. 2 performance marks the third time Sung has come to Healdsburg’s Paul Mahder Gallery since the “Parlor Jazz” series began three years ago, in October 2015. Tickets are $30, available at the Gallery during regular business hours (10 a.m. – 6 p.m., closed Tuesdays) or online at www.healdburgjazz.org.

 The CD “Sung With Words” was released in September, 2018, and Sung is touring in support of the unusual project, a new step in Sung’s evolving career.  A native of Houston and initially trained as a classical pianist, Sung has been an active jazz performer for 20 years, is a graduate from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance and has been featured at many domestic and international jazz festivals. She has released seven CDs as a band leader since 2004.

Winning a 2014 Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation “New Jazz Works” grant (given each year to support the compositional efforts of U.S. based jazz artists) enabled the pianist/composer to fulfill a long-time dream: to create “Sung With Words,” the collaborative project with Dana Gioia.

When the two met, Sung discovered Gioia was a fan and champion of jazz – during his term he spearheaded the revival of the NEA’s Jazz Masters Award into the robust program it is today, and his younger brother is noted jazz author Ted Gioia.

Poetry hadn’t been an area of focus for the pianist/composer so she was intrigued to meet a professional poet. “Dana has a fascinating story, both personally and professionally, and one of his many gifts is his ability to make poetry accessible and even enjoyable for the layperson, similar to how Wynton Marsalis does with jazz,” Sung says.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, and tickets will be available at the door if the event is not sold out. Local wine will be available for purchase, and the performance will begin at 7.

Tickets: $30. Click here for tickets: https://www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org/helen-sung-dec-2/



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