Acclaimed pianist/composer and 2021 Guggenheim Fellow Helen Sung returns to the Rochester International Jazz Festival with Quartet+, her latest project and release on Sunnyside Records. Having lived much of her life at the intersection of different worlds — classical and jazz, and as the American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants — her desire to harmonize these worlds with joy and humanity is at the heart of Quartet+, which celebrates women’s artistry and their music. Vividly blending the jazz and classical worlds, Quartet+ takes the listener on a ride through musical time and space with new original compositions by Helen as well as her arrangements of works by landmark women including Geri Allen, Mary Lou Williams, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Carla Bley, and Marian McPartland.
A native of Houston, Texas, and alumna of its High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Helen eschewed her classical piano upbringing after a chance encounter with jazz during undergraduate studies at UT Austin. She went on to become part of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute (now the Herbie Hancock Institute) at the New England Conservatory of Music and win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition. Presently based in New York City, she has performed with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis (who named her as one of his "Who's Got Next: Jazz Musicians to Watch!"), MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter, and Grammy-winning artists including Terri Lyne Carrington, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the Mingus Big Band. Helen is a Steinway Artist and has served on the jazz faculties of Berklee College of Music, the Juilliard School, and Columbia University, where she also was the inaugural jazz artist-in-residence, pursuing the intersection of jazz and neuroscience, at its prestigious Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.